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Concerns have been raised over proposals put before health chiefs to restrict care packages for older people in Argyll and Bute.
A possible move to limit packages to patients with ‘top priority concerns’ was one of a number of ideas proposed as part of a financial recovery plan by Argyll and Bute Health and Social Care Partnership (HSCP).
A report which was put before the HSCP’s integrated joint board (IJB) presented a total of 13 savings options which would save a total of £386,000 if they are all implemented.
The proposal which generated most controversy was worded: ‘New care packages for older people’s services restricted to those with critical priority 1 needs only, with lower priorities signposted to alternative third sector services and/or assisted with telecare services where possible.
‘Aim is to contain spend on new care packages to no more than 30 per cent of funding released from any care packages terminating.
‘Where that allows, some of the highest priority 2 cases will also be accommodated.’
Dr Angus MacTaggart, a GP representative for the HSCP, who practises on Islay spoke out against the plans for care packages: ‘I would like to voice significant concerns relating to the proposed changes to home care.
‘The proposed restrictions on funding are draconian, short sighted and discriminatory, and at odds with our aims.
‘For example, [it will affect] those with severe and enduring mental health issues, or those with significant difficulty with daily living routines, or those with terminal illnesses or who have recently been discharged from hospital.
‘If approved today, this policy will have significant consequences on how we function as an organisation whose objective is to provide compassionate healthcare.
‘It will lead to severe bed pressures in hospitals. It is clear that this policy has not been fully risk assessed and will lead to real and significant harm.’
Councillor Kieron Green, chair of the IJB, said: ‘We respect the professional opinion which you have given and have discussed this on the morning of this meeting.
‘Even if we approved all these savings, it is likely that we would have to consider bringing forward more savings in the future.
‘I think that bearing in mind the professional advice we are being given, I would be minded to say that for this particular item, officers need to go back.
‘If it is possible to deliver any aspect of this saving, bring it back to a future meeting of the IJB.’
Betty Rhodick, a public representative on the IJB, said: ‘If you are going to have people going back into hospital through a lack of care, you are talking about us – the public.
‘We need to get it right in cutting services, and care is not the way to go. Speculate to accumulate and we will end up saving money.’
Councillor Gary Mulvaney, who is part of the finance and policy committee of the IJB, said: ‘I can certainly accept your suggestion that we have a further look at this, but what I would say is that those who wrote this paper are professionals.
‘We will look at it again in a month’s time, assess the risks and see where it takes us.’
The proposal will be revisited at the board’s next scheduled meeting on Wednesday November 27.