Scottish Care in call for elderly people taskforce

The Scottish Government is being urged to set up a taskforce in a bid to improve the care elderly people receive in their own homes, amid concerns staffing levels in some areas are at “crisis point”.

Ranald Mair, chief executive of the umbrella organisation Scottish Care, said there needs to be a move away from short visits by care workers, which he argued deprive the elderly of dignity and put unfair pressure on staff.

He said care providers are “concerned that constraints on public funding are making investment in the workforce and quality of care hard to sustain”.

Mr Mair, who will speak on the issue in front of Health Secretary Alex Neil at an industry conference in Glasgow today, warned: “Without proper funding, existing problems with staff recruitment and retention – which are already at crisis point in some areas – will worsen.

“Older people in Scotland deserve the best care we can offer – not the least we can get away with or care on the cheap.

“We need to move away from 15-minute visits and we need to reward staff accordingly for the important work they do, otherwise we won’t be able to recruit the staff we want to look after Scotland’s older or vulnerable people.

“We have excellent service providers with dedicated staff but economic factors mean they are unable to do the job to the best of their ability and that means our elderly are being deprived of their dignity while unfair pressure is being put on staff.

“There is often also a lack of co ntinuity of service with different staff allocated to an elderly person on a daily basis. This can have a very negative impact on people, especially those who are confused.”

Staff provide more than 50,000 hours of care a week, Scottish Care said, but with an ageing population and more people being cared for in their own homes instead of hospitals, this number is likely to rise.

“Action needs to be taken now to secure both the quality and quantity of care provision for the future,” Mr Mair said.

“Supporting people to remain in their communities rather than in hospitals or care homes unnecessarily is a positive policy ambition of the Scottish Government.

“However, the infrastructure of home support has to be sound, has to maintain or improve people’s quality of life and must be adequately resourced.

“Currently, the commissioning of home care services by local authorities doesn’t always guarantee these things and the danger is that the current tendering process means we are requiring people to do more for less – less money and less time.

“Given the Scottish Government’s recent publication of a blueprint for the future of residential care, there ought to be a similar taskforce established for home care to outline the way forward.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Having worked constructively with the members of the taskforce on the future of residential care for older people in Scotland, we will also engage with those key stakeholders to look at other care services. Scottish Care will be a vital contributor to that ongoing work.

” The Health Secretary is absolutely clear that older people in Scotland deserve the best possible care, whether in a care home or in the community. This Government wants to ensure that all older people receive quality and compassionate care that protects their dignity and independence on every occasion, regardless of where the care is provided.

“That is why we’ve legislated to integrate health and social care, to improve care for people in communities and help reduce inappropriate use of acute and institutional care. We will soon be consulting on updated care standards and regulations for integration.

” All support services that provide care in people’s homes are also subject to annual, or more frequent if necessary, inspections to ensure that any concerns about standards, and quality of care, are addressed swiftly and effectively.

“The Health Secretary has also tasked Healthcare Improvement Scotland and the Care Inspectorate to develop a new joint inspection regime covering a range of issues, including looking at commissioning issues, including the length of care visits.”

A spokesman for the local government body Cosla said it remains to be convinced that a new taskforce is needed.

He said: ” We work very closely with Scottish Care and other provider organisations and are open to discussion on the issues raised. Whether or not we need another taskforce, well I think we remain to be convinced that this is the way to go.

“Some of the issues – such as payment of a living wage, or the commissioning of home care – are being addressed elsewhere so we would be wary about duplicating effort.

“However, that is not to diminish our commitment to working with Scottish Care and others on what is a very challenging agenda.”