By Peter McLaren-Kennedy • 09 January 2022 • 12:32
In a radical plan being considered in Scotland to ease the NHS crisis, family members could receive £15 an hour to look after their elderly relative. The scheme, still under discussion, has been criticised by the unions with care workers earning considerably less.
So called bed blocking is a major problem as are staff shortages within the care sector due to the pandemic, the proposals looking to solve this issue by enlisting the help of the patient’s family.
The scheme has been tried before with Orkney having gone down this road over Christmas because of severe staff shortages on the island. It is believed that the scheme is also already in use in some parts of England.
The Chief Executive of Scottish Care Dr Donald Macaskill said: “whole system pressure was similar to ambulance delays last year which saw hospital delays leading to waits for paramedics at home.”
Continuing he said: “It’s one giant circle and when it collapses – as it is at the moment with social care – we aren’t able to provide care in the community. Councils and the NHS are already asking families to do more but these are people already running on empty.
“Paying families for care allows them to take leave from their work to take care of their loved ones in the short-term. We will need to start looking at these solution all over Scotland. It is being done in some areas of the south of England already.
“Pre-pandemic we already had a shortage of home carers for lots of reasons but at the moment the lack of staff because of Omicron is critical.”
Currently one in four carers are in isolation leaving homes seriously understaffed. Similarly shortages within the social services system is delaying the assessment of those fit enough to be discharged but who cannot be without a care package being put in place.
Current absence rates means no one is able to draw up the plans or take on new cases, keeping patients on wards needlessly.
Dr Macaskill said: “There are very real pressures to keep flow from hospital to home going. It’s to prevent people who are otherwise clinically ready for discharge from staying too long in hospital.
“The problem we are facing is at the worst staff absence rate that most organisations can remember. Where Omicron is at its most robust, there are some organisations with 25 per cent absence rate. If you don’t have the staff, you can’t deliver the service.”
Latest figures show how there are just under 50,000 Scots in receipt of care in their homes – higher than the 30,000 living in care homes. Care-at-home packages generally see carers provide services like helping people to wash, dress or get ready for bed. Some home care workers are also trained to help with medication or toilet needs.
The SNP’s Social Care Minister Kevin Stewart confirmed the Government was “exploring options” to provide support.
Responding to the story Louise Gilmour, of the GMB union, said: “It’s not the fault of service users and their families that government at all levels has failed to tackle the understaffing crisis in care but what this payment clearly shows is that £15-per-hour minimum for care staff is achievable.
“The first waves of Covid-19 exposed the scale of the crisis on staff and service users and the Omicron wave is compounding it. There is no quick fix but if we can agree that we need a National Care Service to reform the industry, then surely it must be accepted we need to value staff properly if we are to retain and recruit the skills so badly needed?”
The crisis being experienced in Scotland is mirrored across the country with radical plans needed to resolve the issues of bed blocking and slow discharges, however not everyone is convinced paying family members to look after elderly to ease the NHS crisis is the right way forward.
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Originally from South Africa, Peter is based on the Costa Blanca and is a web reporter for the Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news.
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