Edinburgh care crisis: Workers bearing brunt of cuts

Heather is worried for husband Ken's carers. Picture; Ian Georgeson
Heather is worried for husband Ken's carers. Picture; Ian Georgeson
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OVERSTRETCHED workers are bearing the brunt of the Capital’s care crisis, it has been claimed – days after the extent of the problem was laid bare in a damning new report.

And while the care given at their Meadows home is appreciated, Heather believes gruelling shift patterns and staff turnover rates are pushing the system to breaking point.

She spoke out after the Care Inspectorate published a shocking account of management failings at the heart of social care in Edinburgh.

“We’re happy with the care we receive,” said Heather, 85. “But we are concerned about their welfare.”

Former pensions actuary Ken, now 88, benefits from home visits after being left severely disabled by a stroke ten years ago.

A shift pattern introduced six years ago, working four days on and four days off, has been disruptive, while carers’ hours see them risk burn-out, said Heather. Carers finish a 14-hour shift at 10pm before starting again at 8am – only ten hours between shifts. The European Working Time Directive is for 
11 hours’ downtime, but split shift workers with extended breaks are exempt. Edinburgh carers on split shifts get a break from 1pm to 4.45pm.

“This working pattern is particularly difficult for workers with children, or who live far out of town,” said Heather.

“There isn’t enough time to get home, have a meal, get seven hours’ sleep, get up, have breakfast and be back at work by 8am.”

Heather has now written to the British Medical Journal and contacted both care bosses and workers’ union officials with her concerns. She said: “They’ve lost workers – especially for those who have children, for whom a seven-day pattern is normal and fits in with school.”

Heather says the eight-day pattern, with a day carried over into the following week, means patients and relatives need to remind carers of weekly procedures, such as catheter changes.

Shift patterns also cut into carers’ social lives, making it “impossible for workers to keep any kind of weekly routine”, said Heather. She added: “We owe it to carers and to our old and frail citizens to overhaul the system and make sure it’s fit for purpose before it’s too late.”

Unison’s John Stevenson said: “Year on year council cuts mean there are fewer people providing the home care service in the face of greater demand.

“Our members also report rota problems and pressures due to sickness and leave and we are taking those up with the council. Our home care members do a fantastic job and they see day in day out the human cost of cuts to council budgets.”

A spokeswoman for care bosses Edinburgh Health and Social Care Partnership said the shift pattern was introduced after “extensive consultation” with staff and trade unions.

“Staff are offered a range of different start and finish times to their shifts and the partnership endeavours to be flexible,” she added.