08 November 2018

S5M-14123 Care Homes (South Lanarkshire)

The Presiding Officer (Ken Macintosh): The next item of business is a members’ business debate on motion S5M-14123, in the name of Monica Lennon, on “South Lanarkshire Care Homes Under Threat”. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament understands that South Lanarkshire Council plans to reduce the number of its care home facilities; notes that the first phase of these plans includes the closure of McWhirter House in Larkhall and Kirkton House in Blantyre; considers that the proposed new community hub facility at the St Joseph’s site in Blantyre is not a like-for-like replacement and that this will result in a reduction in the number of long-term residential beds; understands that the closure of McWhirter House will leave Larkhall with no council-run care facilities for older people; believes that council-run care provision must remain a vital part of the delivery of residential care for older people and that the ageing population requires a shift in the model of care in South Lanarkshire and the Central Scotland region; recognises that the reliance of the older population on care is likely to increase in coming decades; acknowledges calls that this should be achieved without a reduction in the availability of long-term council care beds and with the support of the community; is concerned at reports that there has not been meaningful consultation with care home staff, trade unions or the communities that are affected by the plans; acknowledges in particular the concerns raised by the GMB, and notes the calls for the SNP administration in South Lanarkshire to halt the planned closures.

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Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP):

I am glad of the opportunity to speak in the debate and I thank Monica Lennon for providing the opportunity for us to have a broader-based discussion about how we support older people in our community. I do that from the perspective of being the only person in the chamber who is in his eighth decade. I am, therefore, perhaps most directly thinking about what my future may be in the event of my health deteriorating to the point that I need that kind of care.

I will make a few points of common cause with Monica Lennon at the outset, to show that we need not focus simply on what might divide us, but on what might unite us. It is entirely proper that Monica Lennon should bring forward a matter of constituency interest; I do not agree with all those members who might have suggested otherwise. She was also entirely correct to raise the issue of a 92-year-old with dementia. There are some very special needs for people with dementia that it is worth considering for a second or two. They are—in general terms, because dementia comes in many forms—people who are relatively intolerant of any change, however small it may be. They are people who require a regular routine and certainty and whose ability to understand change—however well intentioned it may be—is more limited. Therefore, it is correct to refer in the debate to individuals who may be affected by change.

Claudia Beamish said, quite correctly, that we need to look at longer visits by carers—I think that that is a Scottish issue—and more care at home. I fundamentally agree with her on that, and on the need to look at Scotland as a whole.

We need to give a bit of context to this, and the context is undoubtedly that we are making progress. If I recall the number correctly, there has been a 37 per cent reduction in what is commonly called bed blocking, which means that we have an opportunity to look at matters in a different way. In the context of the existing care homes being criticised by the care commission for their provision, the option to do nothing is not available to the council, as it would similarly not be available to councils across Scotland.

I will close my short contribution by saying that the difficult matters that affect those individuals in our community who are in the greatest need are best conducted by building coalitions of interest. I worked with Tam Dalyell—a man with whom I had fundamental disagreements on a wide range of issues, but with whom I had an excellent personal relationship—many times on matters of joint interest. For example, Tam and I worked together when someone was about to be thrown out of the UK by the Home Office in 1999 and that person is still in the UK. That is because we were able to put our political differences to one side and put the needs of our constituents at the heart of our concerns.

In conducting the debate and taking the issue forward, I encourage us all to focus less on our differences than on the commonalities, which may help in the constituencies of Monica Lennon, James Kelly and other MSPs who represent the area. The issue is difficult but it needs attention, and we will have to make change and adapt to changing needs, changing responsibilities and different models of care.


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