Drastic plan to pay Scottish family members £ 15 an hour to care for the elderly under consideration to ease the NHS crisis

A sweeping plan to pay the family to take care of a loved one to ease the crisis in the NHS is under consideration across Scotland.

The government must consider proposals to pay relatives to do home help work in a bid to prevent blockage of hospital beds and help an industry struggling with huge health shortages. personal because of Covid.

But the scheme is controversial as family members could receive £ 15 an hour – £ 5 more than the average care worker and the union minimum demanded for care workers last year .

The Orkneys offered the program – already in place in parts of England – at Christmas due to a severe staff shortage on the island.

Scottish Care Managing Director Dr Donald Macaskill said “the pressure from the whole system” was similar to the ambulance delays of last year, which resulted in delays at hospitals leading to waits for patients. home paramedics.

Dr Donald Macaskill

He said: “It’s a giant circle and when it crumbles – as it is right now with social care – we are not able to provide care in the community.

“The councils and the NHS are already asking families to do more, but these are people who are already running on empty.

“Paying families for care allows them to take time off work to care for loved ones in the short term.

“We will need to start looking at these solutions across Scotland. This is already done in parts of southern England.

“Before the pandemic, we already had a shortage of home caregivers for many reasons, but at the moment the understaffing because of Omicron is critical. “

Up to one in four home care workers are absent due to Covid or self-isolation rules.

Usually, as soon as the patients are fit enough to go home after the hospital, they have to be discharged from the hospital. But for many elderly or vulnerable patients with more complex needs, an assessment must be done while they are hospitalized to decide what help can be provided.
be offered.

For the elderly, this may mean receiving a home care package or entering a care home. But current absence rates mean no one is able to make plans or take on new cases – keeping patients on wards unnecessarily.

Dr Macaskill said: “There are very real pressures to keep the flow from hospital to home. It’s to prevent people who are otherwise
clinically ready to recover from an excessively long hospital stay.

“The problem we face is the worst staff absence rate that most organizations can remember. Where Omicron is most robust, some organizations have an absence rate of 25%.

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“If you don’t have the staff, you can’t provide the service. “

The latest figures show that just under 50,000 Scots are receiving care at home, more than the 30,000 living in care homes. Home care packages typically allow caregivers to provide services such as helping people wash, dress, or prepare for bed. Some home care workers are also trained to meet medication or toilet needs.

SNP Social Affairs Minister Kevin Stewart confirmed the government was “exploring options” for providing support.

Kevin stewart msp
Kevin stewart msp

Louise Gilmour, of the GMB union, said: “It is not the fault of service users and their families that government at all levels has failed to tackle the health care understaffing crisis. , but what this payment clearly shows is that a minimum of £ 15 per hour for nursing staff is achievable.

“The first waves of Covid-19 exposed the scale of the crisis on staff and service users and the Omicron wave is making it worse. There is no silver bullet, but if we can agree that we need a National Care Service to reform the industry, then it must surely be accepted that we need to properly assess staff if we are to retain and recruit. the skills we need so badly? “

Jackie Baillie, Scottish Labor, said: “Social care is in crisis and all possible ways of providing care should be considered – but families are already doing the heavy lifting to care for their loved ones. The point is, this is a sticky plaster solution.

Scottish Labor MSP Jackie Baillie

“If the SNP paid nursing staff £ 15 an hour, staff shortages could become a thing of the past. “

Scottish Lib Dem leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “With the social services crisis caused by staff absences in isolation, it is right that we look at all options to alleviate the pressure. Many families will no doubt be willing to help for free, but the government should offer to pay them anyway. “

Last month, Orkney NHS Health and Care Director General Stephen Brown was forced to ask families on the island to ‘step into the breach’ after admitting the council could no longer ensuring that people get the care they need. Those who did were paid £ 15 an hour to perform home help duties.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton

The Scottish government has been asked if the Orkney program will be rolled out across the country.

Stewart added, “Our priority continues to protect those in need of social support and the staff who care for them. We have taken exceptional steps in all areas of government to address the challenges of Covid-19 – and this is especially clear in our support for local services.

“We know how precious the care of family members and other unpaid caregivers is and know that the pandemic continues to put pressure on them. We are exploring options to provide more support.

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