Last week I raised with the First Minster a report published by Age Scotland that showed around 8,680 people in Scotland wait longer than six weeks for a care assessment and that potentially 8,550 older people may have waited longer than the maximum waiting period for a care package to be put in place once the assessment had been conducted. The result of this has been thousands of older people missing out on the free personal care that they are entitled to due to these delays in assessing and arranging care.
It must be a concern for everyone that too many people are not able to access care and support when they need that care in the community. This in turn puts even greater pressure on acute services in the NHS as without care and support at the point of need more people do end up in hospitals.
I know from personal experience that being able to access the care and support for a loved one when it is needed is not always possible and results in people being in hospital when they do not need to be but can’t get home for the lack of a care package. I have also dealt with many constituents who have not been able to get the care they need and the widespread experiences of both carers and clients not being able to get the amount of time for the quality care needed.
From my own experience, I know that we would not be able to pay enough thanks to both the hospital staff and carers for the work they do to provide support and care especially when they are often expected to work under immense pressure.
Budgets cuts, in my view, means we are not seeing the levels of community care that is needed and whilst I am a big supporter of community care, I am clear it was never about care on the cheap and this needs to be addressed.
I also support the development of Integrated Health and Social Care Boards that manage all community care in the geographical area they are responsible for.
I was disappointed that the First Minster did not seem to support my call for a review of what is and is not working with these new Boards after their first year.
I am not convinced that the governance arrangements are as good as they should and that they do depend on the goodwill of NHS Boards and local Councils.
I remain to be convinced by the financial structures and lean more toward the direct funding of these Boards from central government with the Boards being made up by directly elected councillors and a management structure then directly accountable to the Board. Just now there is. in my view. no clear lines of accountability and a lot of potential for interference and passing the buck. Direct funding from central government brings much clearer transparency and accountability to central government for health and social care and elected member Boards brings local accountability for delivering to local priorities.
Either way, whilst progress has been made there is still need for greater improvement and being able to assess where things are at, what is working, what is not and why not is important if we are to build world class community care across Scotland.