Fears Edinburgh council will renege on care home consultation scope

Wednesday May 24th 2023

Edinburgh-City-Chambers


Written by Local Democracy Reporter, Donald Turvill

The scope of a consultation on the future of four Edinburgh care homes could be reduced to “when and how” to close them with no focus on what they would be replaced with, a councillor has warned.

Independent councillor Ross McKenzie also claimed he was aware of proposals to shut one of them down before the consultation is launched.

The claims come despite a promise that there would be engagement with the public on the future of care homes and the support available for elderly and frail people in the city more widely.

Health and social care bosses said there would still be a “full and democratic consultation on the future of care homes in Edinburgh,” adding they would ensure there is “sufficient capacity to meet future demand”.

Edinburgh Council’s chief executive has been urged to step in over the matter, which was to be discussed by councillors yesterday.

Proposals to close four council-owned care homes at Ford’s Road, Clovenstone, Jewel House and Ferrylee were announced in 2021, with the Edinburgh Health and Social Care Partnership (EHSCP) saying the buildings were no longer fit for purpose.

The Partnership said in December that as a result of their condition the care homes “need to be very selective about the residents they are able to accommodate and cannot accept people with complex care needs”.

Their decommissioning will have a “system wide impact” and residents would have to be moved to alternative accommodation, it said, whilst noting that capacity elsewhere “is limited”. It added there were no replacement care homes identified at that stage.

Drumbrae care home was set to be decommissioned as well until plans emerged for it to be taken over by the NHS as a complex care centre. These have since been scrapped due to the cost of refurbishments however, and the lease was never signed by NHS Lothian.

The fiasco has meant the 60-bed home has now been empty for over a year. City councillor, who have grown increasingly frustrated at the situation, unanimously called for it to be brought back into use at a meeting in February.

A final decision on the other four threatened with closure, which have 151 beds altogether, was delayed so a public consultation could be held, after campaigners hit back at a lack of engagement by the council over the highly controversial plans.

It was said the consultation would “focus on the broad future provision of care and support for older people in Edinburgh” in a report to the Edinburgh Integration Joint Board, which oversees the running of EHSCP, in December.

However it is now feared the council is to “renege” on that pledge and not give the public a say on the replacement of care provision which would be lost through the planned closures.

Councillor McKenzie, who resigned from Labour earlier this year and now sits as an independent, told the LDRS: “It’s my understanding that the public consultation on the future of social care that the IJB agreed to undertake will now be limited to a consultation on when and how to close four council-run care homes.

“Any discussion about the re-provisioning of care will be considered beyond the scope of the consultation. I’m also aware of a proposal to close one of the homes in advance of the consultation taking place.”

Cllr McKenzie said this approach “looks at balance sheets before it looks at people’s needs” and “stores up problems for the future, causing further reliance on an unstable private care sector”.

He pointed out that a motion passed in March agreed the authority’s role as a care provider ‘is best met through council owned and operated care homes’.

He added: “The IJB has already taken 60 council-run beds out of circulation with the farcical closure of Drum Brae care home, which continues to sit empty while the council pays for non-domestic rates and maintenance.

“Now they are proposing to take away another 151 beds across these four homes. The argument that the IJB makes is that these homes are not able to provide the level of care that is currently in demand. Even if you accept that argument, the answer is to adapt the service to meet people’s needs, not to take the service away altogether.

“I’m requesting that the chief executive steps in to advocate for council policy and to prevent further destruction of our capacity to deliver social care.”

Councillor McKenzie was due to table a motion at the policy and sustainability committee yesterday in a bid to get council CEO Andrew Kerr to intervene. He will also call for a report to be brought forward on “options for expanding council provision of long term care, including upgrading existing care homes, building new care homes and acquiring care homes from private providers”.

A Spokesperson for Edinburgh Health and Social Care Partnership said: “We are committed to full and democratic consultation on the future of care homes in Edinburgh including Castlegreen and North Merchiston which have recently returned to Local Authority management.

“It was first identified in 2008 that four older care homes would not meet modern requirements, with buildings that are not offering the best environment for people that are frail and have high levels of need .

“Our priority is to provide high-quality, person centred care for all residents and the Edinburgh Integration Joint Board has tasked us with consulting to ensure that this level of care can be assured in the four older care homes identified. We are committed to ensuring sufficient capacity to meet future demand and we will keep residents, relatives and staff updated.”

Pete Carnell, from the pressure group Another Edinburgh is Possible which has fought against the care home closures, said: “It’s now almost two years since staff in five Edinburgh care homes, Fords Road, Clovenstone, Jewel House, Ferrylee and Drumbrae were informed that the homes were to be closed.

“Along with the council unions and the Edinburgh Trades Council we campaigned for the homes to remain open.

“Drumbrae was closed and the promised change of use has not happened. The other homes are still open.

“The Integrated Joint Board had not consulted publicly about the closures and finally in 2022 it agreed to do so.

“It now seems to be trying to renege on that promise.

“Residents and their families have been left in limbo for two years. These homes represent a big proportion of the publicly run care provision in Edinburgh.

“Edinburgh’s care system is in chaos. The city has the highest proportion of outsourced private care in Scotland. We believe there should be no role for profit in the provision of care.”

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