PLANS to slash the Capital’s budget for health and social care have been branded “utterly scandalous” amid fresh concern over the potential impact on older citizens.
Yesterday the Evening News revealed the council was aiming to cut a total of £3 million from its 2018-19 care budget as part of a targeted £24m saving across the authority.
But council documents set to go before next week’s finance and resources committee show the move comes as 1836 people in the Capital are still waiting to be assessed for care, including 700 who have not yet received care packages and 169 people delayed in hospital.
Alex Cole-Hamilton, Lib Dem MSP for Edinburgh Western, said it was “utterly scandalous” that the council was considering further cuts.
He said: “This is a sector that’s been squeezed to the pips. Week after week I see the human cost in my constituency surgeries with families queuing up to complain about delays to assessment, reductions in support and a complete failure of the local authority to meet their family’s needs.”
Mr Cole-Hamilton said “pinching pennies” in health and social care only served to cost the health service more.
He went on: “It costs £400 a night to stay in hospital but less than £100 a day to receive a social care package. This is nonsensical economics if we think we can save money by cutting social care further.”
The plans come just months after the Care Inspectorate released a damning report detailing numerous failings in the quality of care in the Capital.
Former care home boss Andrew Parfery, chief commercial officer at Care Sourcer – which matches care seekers to providers – said the £3m figure was “horrifying if not surprising”.
He said: “At some point we must invest in services if we expect staff to remain in them. With 40 per cent staff turnover it doesn’t look like the growing number of people without a provider will improve any time soon.”
Planned improvements to save money include a roll out of telecare services and £1.1m relating to disability day services.
However, while Mr Parfery welcomed investment in technology he said using it to help save money should not come at the expense of maintaining or improving the quality of care.
“Otherwise let’s just call it cost cutting because it won’t reduce waiting lists or help people.
“In my opinion telecare has the greatest impact when people have needs assessed as ‘moderate’ or ‘substantial’.
“You now only qualify for free personal care in the Capital if you have ‘critical’ needs. Even then the average visit length is 30 minutes with a large number only being 15 minutes. Can we really cut further and not exacerbate social isolation?”
Andrew Senew, owner of care provider Home Instead Edinburgh, said increased workloads from cost-cutting could also have a knock-on effect on the retention of care workers.
He said: “People that work in the sector are highly motivated to do a job to make people’s lives better. If the system doesn’t support them to do a good job then that’s going to hit their motivation.”
A council spokesman said: “A £3m savings target for health and social care, representing savings originally planned for delivery in earlier years, has been set for 2018/19.
“Updates on specific initiatives will be provided through regular reports to committee.”