19 June 2003

S2M-161 Care Homes for the Elderly

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Murray Tosh): The next item of business is a debate on motion S2M-161, in the name of David Davidson, on care homes for the elderly. There are three amendments to the motion.
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Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): I need to draw attention to a personal interest that could be seen as relevant to the debate—both my sister and my wife's sister are employed as nurses in private care homes.
That the Executive recognises that there is a problem is great, but it has not yet found a solution. It is also great that the minister focused on people, as they are at the core of the issue. By contrast, the Conservative motion speaks about people only in relation to funding.
It has been said:
"The crisis in these care homes has become a national scandal".
Those are not my words—they are the words of David Steel. The abandonment of our elderly people and the neglect of residential nursing homes are a badge of shame for the Executive. If only it raised the amount that was paid by the 60 per cent that Mr McCabe raised his speaking time in the debate, we would not have the current problem.
George Lyon (Argyll and Bute) (LD): The Scottish National Party has just fought a general election and promised not one penny extra to the care home sector. Therefore, how on earth can the member criticise the Executive?
Stewart Stevenson: If the member goes to section 3.1 on page 6 of our manifesto, he will find the appropriate references at the paragraph at the bottom. [Interruption.]
The Deputy Presiding Officer: Order.
Stewart Stevenson: Today, we must consider the decline in the effective funding of the sector and the decline in the number of care homes from 681 in 1998 to 605 last year. The number of beds has declined from 16,677 in 1998 to 14,851 last year, which is the lowest level since 1984. Another 880 will also leave the sector shortly if the Church of Scotland closes its homes.
As a consequence of the lack of places that are available in homes, the number of people who are waiting for discharge from hospital is at record levels—some 514 are now waiting for discharge; three years ago, 334 were waiting. There has been a dramatic uplift, which has taken place against a background of a rising trend of older people in our society.
We do not have to look far for the cause of our troubles. I say to the minister that there is more money in the sector, for which the sector is grateful, but that it is clear that there is not enough money. Weekly charges that are paid to care homes by local authorities for looking after residents fall short of the amount that is needed per resident to provide a decent level of care.
What amount is required? The figures of £390 for nursing care and £332 to £360 for residential care were mentioned by Scottish Care, COSLA, the Church of Scotland, the Salvation Army and the Scottish Executive, but it took two years for the Executive to get to the appropriate level. With money already short, we are now looking at another review that will come in only in 2005-06. If the Church of Scotland closes homes in the voluntary sector, it will make matters dramatically worse, as the people in question will have to go somewhere. Utilisations in other homes will rise. The costs that are borne by voluntary organisations will rise and there will be a cascade of further closures. The three-legged stool of the local authorities, the private sector and voluntary organisations will be unstable if one leg is sawn off.
Our elderly population deserves better than to be treated in the shabby fashion in which the Executive has treated them. The Executive must thoroughly review the true cost of care in Scotland now and take the necessary steps to do so in early course.
I move amendment S2M-161.1, to leave out from "believes" to end and insert:
"regrets that the present funding levels to the voluntary and private sectors leave vulnerable older people exposed to disruption and distress at a point in their lives when they deserve support and stability; believes that the Executive should undertake an urgent review of funding for the care home sector based on an analysis of the true cost of care, and calls on the Executive to carry out an urgent review of bed provision in care homes in order to establish and commit to a long-term plan for the sector."

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