Scottish Liberal Democrats have today launched a consultation on the future of social care, warning that the ageing population is set to add an extra burden to a system already under "immense pressure".
The party plans to build on its record which includes the introduction of free personal and nursing care and support for Frank's Law.
At any one time, around 1,000 patients are stuck in hospital because a care home place isn’t available, the support they need to return home isn’t there or their needs haven’t been assessed. Official statistics have shown 1 in 12 NHS beds being occupied by people on delayed discharges at a cost of £132 million annually (a daily cost of £233 per patient).
In November, the results of a Scottish Care online survey estimated that around a third of nursing posts in care homes are vacant, while nine out of 10 providers reported that it was difficult to recruit staff. This has forced providers to become more reliant on agency staff. The organisation warned that "we are now at the stage of many care homes being placed at real risk in terms of their survival".
Health spokesperson Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP said:
"At some point in all our lives we, or our loved ones, will need help. But how can we ensure everybody gets the quality care and the treatment they need, when they need it?
"I have had constituents wait weeks on end for a care package to be put in place. Thousands of people each year are needlessly in hospital because the home care support they need simply isn't available.
"Person-centred care is quality care. If people don't have the support they need it can effect their physical and mental health.
"With Scotland’s population rapidly ageing, our social care system is already under immense pressure. Concerns surround funding, how the integration of health and social care is progressing and the acute shortage of care staff in the sector. They are working around the clock but are really stretched."
Social care spokesperson Karen Clark said:
“Scottish Liberal Democrats pioneered the policy of free personal and nursing care for the elderly in Scotland and recognise that we need to plan now for a fair, affordable and sustainable social care policy for the future.
"In recent months we have seen charities warn about staff shortages and care packages falling short, meanwhile integrated joint boards warn that they don't have the resources or long-term strategies to tackle the challenges of an ageing population.
“That’s why we’re running a consultation on the future of social care. We'd love to hear from organisations and individuals with experience of the care system either as providers or service users to help shape party policy moving forward.”