Care Services Under Threat

Today’s Evening News carries a comment piece from me on the need for funding for both our hospitals in Lothian and to enable local authorities address the growing need for more care homes and care services for older people.

The long standing squeeze on funding for NHS Lothian is deeply concerning and urgent action is needed now, rather than later.   Last week Cabinet Secretary for Health Alex Neill MSP stated that we will need to keep the number of beds currently available in our hospitals to cope with demographic change; however, board papers from NHS Lothian revealed that they are proposing to close facilities and cut the number of beds.   Last week I took the chance in Parliament to ask the Health Minister Michael Matheson, what additional resources the Scottish Government are going to provide to ensure that local authorities can provide the new care facilities that are required.  Despite the severity of the issue at stake and the potential consequences of inaction, I didn’t even get a reply.

In my published article I call for a joined up approach to deal with health and social care: the Scottish Government, local authorities and the Health Board must work together to ensure that there are enough beds in our hospitals, enough care homes to provide long term support for old people, and quality care packages to enable older people to be discharged to their homes when they are ready.

As Edinburgh’s population continues to grow and the number of older people living much longer continues we face a real problem given the current funding allocations for health services in Lothian.   That’s why I’ve written today to the Scottish Parliament’s Convenor of Health to ask if his committee will raise the issue of funding with the ENRAC Technical Committee.

As Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Member for Local Government I am also acutely aware of the SNP Government’s squeeze on local council finances.     As councils and health boards work together to plan for new care facilities for older people new resources will be needed.   The Scottish Government will have to address this challenge.