Tragic case at heart of care crisis

Over the last week, reports have unfolded of a tragic case involving elderly siblings and the standard of social care they received.

John Gibson and Thomasina Gibson were taken to hospital last week.  Unfortunately this week, reports confirmed that Mr Gibson died while Ms Gibson remains in hospital.

The circumstances surrounding the case are deeply distressing.  Medical staff are said to have been shocked by the condition of the two elderly patients and the state of their home.

The description of events was made all the more concerning as the pair were being visited up to four times a day by the Council appointed care agency Mears Group Plc.

Following this case, the Council have launched an investigation into the specific circumstances that led to this situation.   It is vital that the specific issues in this case are identified and addressed as a matter of urgency.

Over recent days, reports have continued to emerge about the case.  On Saturday I called on care workers to speak out – even if under the guarantee of anonymity.   In today’s Evening News, former employees have accused the Mears Group of a catalogue of errors in relation to the care they provided to the Gibsons.   Earlier reports also point to previous complaints about the firm – there have apparently been 18 complaints upheld since February this year.

I have now written to the Care Inspectorate and the Council to ask to be kept updated with the investigation and have lodged a series of Parliamentary questions to the Scottish Government.

Specifically, I am keen to find out what checks were conducted following previous complaints.  I want to know whether recommendations from the Care Inspectorate were followed up and whether the Council conducted its own investigations. I also want to know what sanctions are open to the Care Inspectorate to ensure that their warnings carry weight and encourage action.

As the Council continues its investigation, I am urging them to consider conducting a wider investigation into the system of care in Edinburgh.

I am aware from my own casework with care staff and service users that under-pressure staff are being forced to make shorter visits, meaning they are unable to carry out their roles to an adequate standard.  This situation will not help to provide dignity to vulnerable people who require care.

I have previously called on care workers who know of companies’ poor working practices and conditions to come forward and am pleased that care workers have spoken out in this case.  Their information will help to shed light on the circumstances surrounding this case so that lessons can be learned.

However, I understand that for many care workers, coming forward is difficult as they fear for their jobs if they are discovered whistleblowing.

In the aftermath of this tragic case it is important that no stone is left unturned in the Council’s investigation.   We owe it to the Gibsons to find out why this service apparently failed so badly and to ensure that this is never repeated again.