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Highland Council and NHS Highland warn of the 'potential collapse of the care home sector' as they run into funding, staffing and accommodation problems

By Scott Maclennan

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Care Homes are essential for residents and families so fears of a 'potential' collapse will be worrying for many.
Care Homes are essential for residents and families so fears of a 'potential' collapse will be worrying for many.

The two largest public service organisations in the north – Highland Council and NHS Highland – have revealed fears of the “potential collapse of the care home sector” in parts of the region.

In a stark warning, the council says that neither it nor the health board are able to find more cash for care homes and when services are lost, it is unable to replace them – leaving areas without any provision.

There are also major problems around an “inability to recruit and retain staff which in turn results in high agency use and cost” something which is compounded by the housing crisis as there is “no accommodation for staff”.

A series of “ongoing short notice closures” of care homes and “insufficient capacity to relocate residents” when there are closures only make matters worse while savings are nearly impossible due to the “nature of rural demand” which affects profitability.

An emergency meeting of the Highland Council and NHS Highland joint monitoring committee will now be held in November “to identify possible solutions for adult care provision within the Highlands”.

In a blunt assessment, council officers state: “Long-term sustainability and financial affordability is a serious risk. Significant and accelerated redesign is required as the current approach is no longer viable or affordable.

“Staff and partners have targeted extensive time to come together to produce a strategic redesign plan for adult social care.

“As this is such a serious matter, an update via the extraordinary joint monitoring committee in November will be reported back to council in December.”

But no help should be expected from the Scottish Government, according to Deputy First Minister John Swinney in a letter to the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla) in response to a call to utilise reserves.

In it, he said: “A number of comments have been made stating the Scottish Government should utilise the funding in its reserves. I do not recognise the numbers being discussed, as the Scottish Government has used reserves in full to deliver the 2022/23 budget.

“Indeed, the additional £120 million provided to local government at stage two of the 2022/23 budget was delivered through the use of the Scotland reserve.

“Given that, and now the offer of a further £140 million to support a pay deal, any suggestion that we have not fully utilised all avenues open to us to provide additional funding to councils is wholly unfounded.”

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