Care evictions spark concerns of deepening NHS ‘crisis’



AN MSP has warned that a decision to close sheltered housing units for frail pensioners in Edinburgh will lead to a deepening “crisis” for hospitals and social care.

The lack of appropriate housing may impact NHS Lothian, as hundreds of hospital beds are taken up each month by elderly patients who are well enough to leave but have nowhere else to go.

This crisis may deepen following Cairn Housing Association’s recent announcement of the closure of five of its “very sheltered housing” units.

The units set to close provide housing to over 40 vulnerable pensioners in Braid Avenue, Church Hill, Columba Road, Grange Loan and Laverockbank Terrace.

The announcement comes just weeks after health board executive Tim Davison’s statement that he planned to improve care for people in their own homes.

This statement came with the revelation that three city hospitals – Liberton, Corstorphine and Astley Ainslie – face an uncertain future.

Labour Lothians MSP Sarah Boyack said: “The closure of the Cairn homes is a timely reminder that it’s not just the health element of health and social care – the social care element is in crisis now.”

She continued: “The Royal Victoria Hospital was closed – a hospital specifically for older people – and it had to be reopened in months because of the short-term capacity problems in the ERI, and there’s a question mark over three more hospitals.”

City health leader Chancellor Ricky Henderson has expressed his regret regarding the decision to close the Cairn homes, but pledged the council would find alternative accommodation for the residents should the closures go ahead.

However, Chancellor Henderson admitted that the process of re-accommodating the evicted pensioners “might not be quick or easy.”

The housing association’s decision to withdraw from very sheltered housing was described as “strategic”, and the closures are expected to go ahead in 2014.

Sheltered accommodation can include extra wardens, full-time carers, en suite facilities and meals.

Neil Golightly, a Business Improvement Manager for Cairn Housing Assocation, commented that: “We have embarked on the process of the proposed closures with full awareness of the significant impact it will have on our residents and their families/carers.

“We are currently consulting on these proposals with residents and Board members will consider their views at a meeting later this month.  We will continue to work closely with the City of Edinburgh Council and other Housing Associations and support providers over the next 12 months to secure appropriate accommodation with support for each resident affected.”

Professor Alex McMahon, director of strategic planning for NHS Lothian, said: “We work closely with our social care colleagues from the council to ensure we have plans in place to address any capacity issues.”