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Edinburgh s Integration Joint Board, which oversees health and social care in the city, agreed the proposals to close Fords Road, Clovenstone, The Jewel and Ferrylee homes and change the use of Drumbrae care home should be decided at its next meeting on August 17, but also allowed for a special meeting to be called for mid-September if more time was needed.
However, the EIJB agreed to press ahead with “preparations towards” changing Drumbrae from a care home to providing hospital-based complex clinical care because it is tied in with ending a lease on Ferryfield House, which currently provides that service, and NHS Lothian’s plans to close Liberton Hospital.
The proposals – which mean a reduction of 211 residential care places – are part of what a report to the board called “an ambitious change programme that will revolutionise health and social care services”.
The report said the city’s bed-based care provision needed to be reconfigured to ensure the right mix of beds and talked about shifting more care into the community and collaborating with the voluntary and independent sector.
Deputations from trade unions raised concerns about both the plans and the way they had been handled.
Des Loughney, secretary of the Edinburgh trade union council, said there seemed to be an assumption that if demand for care home places increased it would be met through the private sector, adding: “This is a poor and unwelcome strategy.”
Unison’s Gerry Stovin said: “To close five care homes and change the role of the remaining care homes without consultation and a fully-costed plan on how community care and care at home is provided is astounding. To do this now, during a devastating pandemic when the care home staff have carried on caring for the most vulnerable, putting their heallth and that of their families at risk to save, is incredibly insensitive.”
But he said: “There’s a lot to be discussed and the timescale is far too short.”
Delia Douglas from the GMB said the plans would mean no council-run homes in west Edinburgh and asked how that fitted with the board’s support for “20-minute neigbourhoods”.
And Brian Robertson, branch secretary for Unite, said the proposals already looked like a done deal and the consultation was coming afterwards.
During the debate among board members, Green councillor Melanie Main said holding consultations during summer holidays was bad practice.
And Tory councillor Phil Doggart said: “The absence of a full impact assessment is very, very unfortunate.”
Staff rep Kirsten Hey said she was concerned about the number of beds being reduced and the private sector making up the provision.
“We know the private sector are not always reliable in the long term and time after time we’ve had to step in and take over the running of homes where things have gone wrong.”
But Judith Proctor, chief officer of the Edinburgh Health and Social Care Partnership, said: “We do not believe we need the level of beds that we have – we’re over-provided with care home beds at a certain level in the city and this is about being able to support the right bed numbers across the city, providing the care that people will need.”