Health and social care partnership has failed old folk and care home staff
Cllr Marie McNair; HSCP chair Allan Macleod; HSCP Chief Officer Beth Colwell; Crosslet House care home; Cllr Jonathan McColl; Jackie Baillie MSP; Cabinet Secretary Jeane Freeman; First Minister Nicola Sturgeon; Covid-19 victim Catherine Sweeney, and Crosslet Home residents and staff in happier times.
INVESTIGATION BY BILL HEANEY
New figures released today from the National Records of Scotland show that, for the first time, more people died from Covid-19 in West Dunbartonshire’s care homes than in hospital.
Up to 26 April, 34 deaths within West Dunbartonshire care homes had Covid-19 mentioned on the death certificate compared to 32 deaths in hospital.
This is also the case for Scottish care homes as a whole with 51 per cent of registered Covid-19 deaths in the last week coming from Scotland’s care homes and 42% coming from hospitals.
West Dunbartonshire has the ninth highest number of Covid-19 deaths of any local authority in Scotland, of which there are 32.
Council care worker Catherine Sweeney from Silverton in Dumbarton was one of the first victims of Covid-19. There were others whose families asked for their privacy to be respected at such a sensitive time for them.
Argyll and Bute Council also saw 13 Covid-19 deaths in care homes compared to 23 hospital deaths.
The local authorities with more recorded Covid-19 care home deaths are those which have a far larger population such as Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee, and North Lanarkshire.
By head of population West Dunbartonshire is one of the worst areas for the number of deaths.
The NRS revealed that 39 per cent of all Scottish Covid-19 deaths have taken place in care homes. This is up six per cent on care home figures released last week.
Jackie Baillie, MSP for Dumbarton, Vale of Leven, Helensburgh and Lomond, has continually warned the Scottish Government that insufficient levels of testing and inadequate provisions of PPE were putting residents and staff of care homes at an increased risk.
She said today (Wednesday): “The figures for Covid-19 deaths both for Scotland as a whole and for West Dunbartonshire are hugely sobering.
“With over 50 per cent of Covid-19 deaths happening in care homes last week, it is clear that care homes are the new frontline in the battle against coronavirus.
“The fact that the situation is getting worse rather than better highlights that not enough is being done to protect senior citizens from Covid-19.
“Since the beginning of the outbreak, I have been calling on both the Scottish Government and West Dunbartonshire Council to ensure that both care home residents and staff are properly protected and supported.
“This meant the widespread testing of residents and a consistent supply of adequate PPE for staff.
“Care home and social care staff have been put in impossible positions by not having vital PPE until recently.
“The staff are incredibly hardworking and my sincere thanks go out to them.
“The work that they are doing to fight this virus and to protect their vulnerable patients has not gone unnoticed.
“My sympathies go to all those who have lost a loved one to Covid-19 both in and out with care homes.”
There appears to be no good reason – apart from lack of vision and preparedness – why West Dunbartonshire’s care homes, both council and privately owned, in which there have been a total of 34 deaths.
The Council’s Health and Social Care Partnership, chaired by unelected accountant Allan Macleod, was boasting in a media release on April 1, 2019 – an appropriate date? – how well set up they were to deal with anything the world could throw at them.
There was not so much as a mention in the release of possible staff shortages or the ability to purchase PPE, or having to withdraw care services from 300 clients in an emergency such as Covid-19.
These things should never have come as a surprise to them.
There was widespread publicity as far back as January 2020 about what had happened in China and had spread from there to Italy before continuing on its deadly path through Europe.
In the release, the blinkered committee and the local health board – Cllr Jonathan McColl, leader of the SNP council, is a member of both – boasted that it had protected frontline services in its budget for the next financial year (this year).
The partnership said it had accepted “significant” funding from both West Dunbartonshire Council and NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde to ensure they could continue to focus on primary care, mental health and community based services.
A cool £67.8 million was invested by the Council, while the Health Board indicated it would be contributing £91.1 million, pending approval from the Health Board.
Committee members were told that they faced funding gaps in Social Care of £1.81 million, but claimed that due to the enhanced budget contribution from the Council, as well as applying “management savings” and recommended increases to social care charges, this was reduced to £700,000.
Management savings have been frequently attacked by the Labour Party and Community Party opposition as “just another name for cuts”.
At special meeting of the Partnership board, members agreed to use a portion of the new funding to close that gap, leaving £581,000 for investment in care homes such as Crosslet House.
In healthcare, a range of contributions meant the funding gap had been closed, and £63,000 of funding was available for investment, according to a Council spokesperson.
It must now be a matter of great regret that this extra money was not invested in PPE – personal protection equipment for frontline workers.
Just before this, The Democrat had asked the Council to identify the mysterious Allan Macleod, Chair of the Partnership, and tell us about his background. They refused.
Council officials still refuse still to talk to The Democrat. Or to disclose any biographical details for Mr Macleod, such as where he lives, where he worked previously and the process which led up to his appointment, which appeared to be confused from the outset.
Sometimes he took the chair. Cllr Marie McNair took it at other times, even though he was present. He certainly wasn’t elected.
Mr Macleod in a thumbnail biography on the Health Board website turns out to have been an accountant in a similar post with Police Scotland.
There is no mention of any experience in health and social care services.
But in the April 1 press release, he was quoted as saying: “As a partnership, we are fully committed to providing effective and efficient health and social care services to the people of West Dunbartonshire.
“We are pleased to be in a position to close the budget gap through prudent financial management and management savings [budget cuts by any another name].
“I would like to thank everyone who helped deliver this budget for their time and effort in protecting the services we provide.”
Which leaves one wondering what he might be saying now.
Councillor Marie McNair, Vice Chair of the Partnership, said: “I am delighted to deliver this no cuts budget to our residents – many of whom rely on the services we provide.
“As a partnership, we have worked hard to deliver a budget which not only protects frontline services, but also the jobs of our dedicated staff.”
The promise of the “no cuts budget” is now in tatters as is the commitment to protect services.
Nearly 300 old and infirm people in the community have had their services not only reduced but cut by 100 per cent with no promise of their reinstatement.
This was despite a statement in parliament this week from Cabinet Secretary Jeane Freeman that she didn’t order 100 reductions – anything but, she said.
The burden for looking after them, described as “vital” by Beth Culshaw, Chief Officer of the Partnership, has now become the responsibility of hard-pressed relatives or friends of the family.
Beth Culshaw, who transferred to HSCP from the Health Board to replace former social work boss Keith Redpath, said in that press release: “The services we provide to the people of West Dunbartonshire are vital, and so I am pleased that we have agreed a budget which shows our continued commitment to investing in primary care, mental health and community based services.”
She added:” We are committed to using the investment from West Dunbartonshire Council and NHSGGC [the Health Board] to ensure we are working in the most efficient manner we can.
“While demand is increasing by changing the way in which services are delivered we can continue to meet the needs of our community.”
If the manner in which the HSCP have taken up this vitally important task of looking after the health and welfare of the most vulnerable members of the community really does involve “working in the most efficient manner we can” then the recent tragic events indicate they have a long way to go.
What they are delivering now is really not good enough. Our old folk deserve better than this.
At that meeting, the HSCP also approved the partnership’s Strategic Plan for 2019-2022, which was completed following extensive consultation with all partners and stakeholders “and outlines the partnership’s commitment to service provision going forward”.
I take it we will be hearing from the Council’s SNP leadership that they will be revisiting that plan, but don’t hold your breath.