Campaigners have called for urgent action to tackle “shockingly high” waiting lists for social care as new figures show more than 10,000 Scots are either waiting for a package of help to be put in place or to be assessed.
Data from Public Health Scotland showed that as of July 3 this year, there were 3,964 people who had been assessed as needing help and who were waiting for a package of care at home to be put in place.
In addition to this, an estimated 6,253 people were waiting for a social care assessment.
Age Scotland raised its concerns about the “shockingly high” figures, adding it was “wholly unacceptable for so many older people to spend weeks or months in limbo, waiting to be assessed or for a social care package to be put in place”.
The charity’s interim CEO Katherine Crawford spoke out at the same time as opposition parties challenged the Scottish Government to act.
Scottish Conservative health spokesman Dr Sandesh Gulhane said waits for care packages would mean “thousands of patients needlessly stuck in hospital” – branding this “soul destroying” for those affected.
Labour health spokesperson Dame Jackie Baillie said: “These shocking figures are a true indictment of the SNP’s plans to rejuvenate the care sector and show how superficial the level of engagement with the sector has been.”
She accused the Scottish Government of having “wasted months investing in a poorly planned national care service and ignoring the many valid criticisms of their plans” while the care sector “continued to suffer from underinvestment and workforce shortages”.
The Scottish Labour deputy leader added: “Thousands have been left stuck in limbo by a party that would rather invest in its own PR than in social care services and its staff.”
Ms Crawford condemned the “shockingly high figures” as she said: “Our helpline hears from older people and families on a daily basis about the long waits they face for vital social care at home.
“It is wholly unacceptable for so many older people to spend weeks or months in limbo, waiting to be assessed or for a social care package to be put in place. The longer people wait for care, the more acute their needs can become.
“Urgent action is required from government, councils and policy-makers to address the staggering fact that there are over 10,000 people across the country who are not currently getting the care they need and are entitled to.
“Considering the additional pressure the social care sector faces every winter, our fear is that this will only get worse as the year progresses and ramp up during the colder months, causing greater pressure on the NHS and poorer health outcomes for older people.
“Once again, this demonstrates the undeniable need for reform in social care, both in terms of effective delivery and significant funding boosts. There is no choice but to be bold on reform to ensure we have a social care system that delivers for everyone who needs it.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson responded: “Recent figures show, across local authorities where the setting has been reported, a decrease in the number of people in hospital waiting for a social care assessment or a package of social care support from home since January 2023.
“Performance against the four-hour A&E target has also stabilised. Nevertheless, we know that performance is not where it needs to be and we continue to work closely with the health boards facing the greatest challenges in A&E, to drive down waiting times and improve services for patients and staff.
“We are committed to working with all partners to improve social care services and know well the challenges that the adult social care sector faces at this time.
“These challenges particularly around staffing are exacerbated by Brexit, funding challenges and the cost-of-living crisis.
“Over the last couple of years we have increased the pay for social care workers by more than 14%. We are looking at how we can plan for, attract, train, employ and nurture the workforce, working with Cosla on consistency of improved pay and conditions, improving access to training and development, and ensuring a career in social care is attractive and rewarding.
“We are also continuing to work towards our commitment to increase spend in social care by 25% by the end of this parliament, an increase of over £840m.
“We have also put in place the Delayed Discharge and Hospital Occupancy Action Plan to support health boards to create the necessary capacity to deal with emerging pressures.
“We are committed to a National Care Service that ensures consistent, high quality social care support and community healthcare and we are hosting events throughout the summer to hear from those working to deliver care and those who are cared for to hear from those with most experience how we can co-design a service that properly meets the needs of peoples across the country.”