HUNDREDS of vulnerable pensioners are left to “fend for themselves” as they stay stuck on waiting lists for basic care in their own homes.
New figures show the extent of the crisis which is mounting pressure on Scotland’s already over-stretched hospitals.
Across the country over 1,600 senior citizens were waiting for home care packages last winter.
These are designed to help people stay in their homes by assisting them with the likes of washing and cooking.
It is feared that delays are leading to bed blocking, which occurs when hospital beds are occupied by patients ready for discharge but who have nowhere to go.
The data comes from a Freedom of Information request issued by the Liberal Democrats.
It shows that in December last year, a total of 1,854 people were waiting for a care package across 28 local authority areas, including 1,627 pensioners.
A further breakdown of the figures shows this haul includes 863 people over the age of 80.
Edinburgh, at 421, had the highest number of people on the waiting list. The figures for Glasgow were not available, meaning the total number of Scots waiting for care is likely to be much higher.
Lib Dem health spokesman Jim Hume MSP said: “Providing decent social care is fundamental to allowing vulnerable people to live their life in comfort and dignity in their own homes.
“People who have paid into the system their whole lives must not be left to fend for themselves when they need our support.
“We have already seen a massive squeeze on hospital beds for older patients and a logjam on care services.”
Last month, a shake-up of the way care is organised in Scotland was introduced.
Large parts of health board and council budgets have been merged in a bid to cut bed-blocking and improve home care.
New laws have also forced councils and the NHS to work together.
The two organisations have to decide which of them is going to take the lead in decision-making, or delegate those decisions to a separate body.
Last year, just under 150,000 people received some form of social care at home.
Health Secretary Shona Robison said: “The Scottish Government is joining up health and social care to ensure our health boards work seamlessly with local authorities to deliver the best possible care.
“That is particularly important for our older people.
“We are also taking a range of actions to tackle delayed discharge and make sure the right care packages are in place.
“We are committed to ensuring the system works together so waiting times for home care are as short as possible.”