The needs of local people, staff and users are being ignored in the rush to rationalise care unit provision on Lewis, says Councillor Norman A Macdonald of Uig.

A member of the Western Isles Integration Joint Board (IJB, Cùram is Slàinte nan Eilean Siar) Councillor Macdonald has hit out at their use of ‘rhetoric that suits their agenda’ on the future of small scale care units in rural areas.

Councillor Macdonald, one of the four voting members who represent Comhairle nan Eilean Siar on the IJB, says the current consultation process is flawed because of the way information has been presented to the board and public.

The consultation on the future of three small care units at Garrabost in Point, Crowlista in Uig and at Carloway began yesterday (Thursday February 21st). Three public meetings are planned, and there is a deadline for public comments of Wednesday March 20th.

The current IJB consultation describes ‘a drop-off in demand for the care units’ and a board paper briefing IJB members at their meeting of February 13th said that care units had ‘a diminishing value from a commissioning perspective, as more people with complex needs are supported for longer at home’. The paper says that a reformed homecare service, which is more responsive to individual need and more resilient, has reduced demand for residential places.

But Councillor Macdonald said: “This is the rhetoric that suits the agenda – it’s obvious that care homes are anathema. Providing care is not about efficiency – we want it to be done as well and as efficiently as possible within our delivery mechanism, which has up until now been the care unit.”

He says small local units contribute to local culture and economy in rural areas, create work for people close to their homes and provide ideal conditions for respite and post-hospital care, as well as for longer stays within reach of friends and relatives. Another issue is that the people who work in small units may not wish to transfer their skills to providing home-care.

“The idea that staff will transfer to providing home care, based on my discussions with individuals, just will not happen. They are simply going to stop working in care. They may have accepted short-term re-deployment, but that is because it is short-term.

“Our IJB has more reserves than any other IJB in Scotland and the bulk of that is through not being able to recruit. We have over 100 vacancies and a reserve of £2 million a year. The money in the budget is not being considered for use in different ways, such as keeping care units open.

“Meanwhile delayed discharge costs £1,000 per week per person and those are people who are in hospital and who cannot go home – they are ideal candidates for a care unit.”

He also queried whether an increasing focus on care provision in Stornoway meets the Comhairle’s strategic objectives. He said: “One of the core principles of the council is to look at creating hubs in distinct communities to try and encourage people not to have to come into Stornoway every day if they can find work closer to home. It’s very important to try and keep people in small communities to work, to receive care and to visit their relatives and friends.”

“There are sizeable challenges ahead in terms of care home provision anyway – the proposed development at Goathill will only just replace the existing provision and some think that we should not close other homes until we see the scale of the need in years to come.

“I have spoken out about care units for many years and to some extent the small units that remain are the ones where the community and the elected representatives fought hardest to keep them.”

Western Isles IJB would like to hear from the public on the proposed options for Carloway, Crowlista and Garrabost care units as detailed here - https://ijbwesternisles.scot/index.php/publications/lewis-care-units-consultation

Responses should be received by Wednesday 20th March to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by paper copy to the Health and Social Care Partnership, Sandwick Road, Stornoway, Isle of Lewis, HS1 2BW.

In addition, there will be three public consultation events, as follows:

  • Monday March 4th at Ionad Stoodie (Garrabost) from 7.30-9.30pm
  • Monday March 18th Uig Community Centre (Crowlista) 7.00-9.00pm 
  • Tuesday March 19th Carloway Community Centre 7.30-9.30pm