A staff crisis in care-at-home services has prompted West Lothian Council to set up daily contact with the private firms that supply more than 90% of the sector work in the region.
A weekly oversight group has also been set up by the council’s social policy staff to work with care providers.
In a report to the council’s social policy, policy and development scrutiny panel (PDSP) last week, senior manager Rob Allen said: “The current situation in relation to care-at-home capacity is of significant national and local concern.
“In West Lothian there has been ongoing active oversight of the care-at-home market for some time.”
He added: “A weekly care-at-home oversight meeting was established on June 14, 2021 with the aim of better understanding risk and developing actions to improve the situation.”
Action being taken by social policy staff includes regular contact with Scottish Care, the national agency, to identify further sector-wide issues.
They also continue to participate in the national Social Work Scotland Older Adults sub-group to engage with other local authorities to identify emerging issues and to share good practice.
An online contacts network has been established to allow for the geographic clustering of packages of care to enable providers to swap packages that no longer fit their areas to create capacity and make them more efficient.
Social policy staff are also working with the council’s Access2Employment team and have arranged targeted meetings with firms to ensure they have access to national and local employment programmes and associated subsidies and support in an attempt to solve local staffing gaps.
The report said: “The delivery of care-at-home services in West Lothian is key to achieving the strategic aim of shifting the balance of care, by ensuring that care and support is delivered at home or closer to home rather than in hospital or other institutional settings.
“A whole system approach is taken to the delivery of care-at-home services in West Lothian with services delivered by both the internal service and also by our partners in the independent sector.
“As at September 13, 2021, the weekly committed hours were 17,925 – 92.1% of these hours were commissioned from the independent sector.”
Earlier this month, in response to winter planning and system pressures, health secretary Humza Yousaf announced the national allocation of an additional £62m for 2021 to 2022, to build capacity in care-at-home community-based services.
It is expected the recurring funding should help to fulfil unmet need, and deal with the current surge in demand and complexity of individual needs, also helping to ease pressures on unpaid carers.
West Lothian Council has yet to be notified of its share.
Councillor Moira Shemilt proposed officers return to the committee with results within the next few months.
She asked: “Would it be possible to get an update on how things are progressing?”
By local democracy reporter Stuart Sommerville