Care crisis: More than 300 people across Falkirk district waiting on care packages
More than 300 people are now waiting for care packages across Falkirk district, recent figures show, with a massive rise in people needing social care combined with high staff absence rates.
Gail Woodcock, Head of Integration, told members of Falkirk’s Integrated Joint Board – which oversees health and social care locally – that the recent demand for services is unprecedented.
Chief officer Patricia Cassidy said the pressures reflect “increasing and sustained demand” across the whole health and care system.
Covid itself is continuing to bring challenges – last week 16 care homes across Forth Valley had staff or residents who had tested positive.
And that is adding to the challenge of finding places for those who are ready to leave hospital, delaying more discharges.
The increase in demand for packages of care saw the waiting list grow to 332 people on November 8 – an increase of 32 per cent in just 13 weeks.
In comparison, last year’s figures showed 64 people on the waiting list for either a home care package or community care.
However, all of the pressure is a direct result of the virus itself.
Most of those admitted to Forth Valley Royal Hospital are acutely ill from other causes and many are requiring a lengthy hospital stay.
Ms Woodcock said that reflects the impact of the long months of lockdown, when people may have delayed seeking help.
The demand has in turn put a huge pressure on staff who “have been working above and beyond, facing unprecedented challenges, for a significantly extended period”.
And this, when combined with staff either having Covid or needing to self- isolate, has meant higher absence rates than usual.
Other organisations that provide packages of care are facing similar challenges and several have been handed back, piling yet more pressure on services.
Ms Woodcock told board members that the Health & Social Care Partnership was working closely with NHS colleagues to improve the situation.
Recruitment has been a priority, including an additional 80 bank health care support workers, along with Forth Valley College healthcare students who are expected to be in post soon.
A small number of people also answered a plea for volunteers from Falkirk Council for help with home visits.
Other future solutions might include using “time bands” for visits – eg between 8 and 10 pm rather than 9pm – in a bid to be more flexible.
They are also talking to the third sector about how it might help.
In particular, they are looking at using volunteers to help a person leaving hospital, taking care of things such as travelling home; checking for trip hazards; getting shopping; and collecting prescriptions.
They are also working with care homes to increase the number of intermediate care beds available.
While much of the work is still at the early stages, a recent reduction in delayed discharges – the lowest in three months – suggests they are beginning to see progress.
Ms Woodcock said: “Staff and colleagues are going above and beyond to really try and address this – recognising that we are moving into winter, though it’s felt like winter since summer.”