CARE BEDS CRISIS: Shortages in Skye and the islands take their toll on Ina, 95

Myra Macleod with mum Ina. Pic Willie Urquhart

A carer from Portree who is looking after her 95-year-old mother is bearing the brunt of the “dire and neglectful” shortage of care beds on Skye.

Myra Macleod has been looking after her mother Ina, who is originally from Scadabay in Harris, for the last seven years as she was the family member most able to shoulder the responsibility at the time.

During the pandemic Ina, who lives in sheltered housing in Druim na Pairc, was diagnosed with dementia and her condition deteriorated quite rapidly.

“She is now 100 per cent dependent on me, her ability to care for herself in any way is now gone,” said Myra.

“We have been provided with periods of respite, which I have much appreciated more than her, as caring for her is a 24/7 job, from getting her up in the morning to seeing her to bed at night and all other jobs in between.

“Last year she had a period of respite. The nearest place available was in Ullapool.

“I appreciated that a place had been found for her, but after a few days I got a phone call asking if I could pop in as Mum was a bit restless – a six-hour return journey.

“I obviously didn’t go as the staff member would have been unaware of where I lived. But it was upsetting nonetheless that my mother may have been confused and wanting to see a familiar face and there was no one I could call on to go in to see her.

“I wonder how Central Belt politicians would feel if those based in Edinburgh were asked to ‘pop in’ to Kingussie, or a Glasgow based MSP asked to ‘pop in’ on a parent in a care home in Spean Bridge.  It is shocking how people have to be sent away from the island to care homes.”

The family is currently involved in a dispute with Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, said Myra, which is not willing to have Ina return to Harris to live with her son and his family.

“Highland Council social work will relocate residents from the Western Isles, and those from elsewhere I believe, to the Highland Council area, yet the comhairle social work department have pulled up the drawbridge and do not accept ‘outsiders’ into the Western Isles,” said Myra.

The family is waiting to hear back from the local MSP Alasdair Allan on support for their case.

In the meantime, Myra was relieved to hear this week that her mother will now be getting four visits per day from Highland Council care at home staff.

“With the help that has been offered now, things are manageable. I was at boiling point really, because I’m giving Mum care at both ends of the day.

“Sometimes I wished there was one morning of the week where I could be in my own home, but I couldn’t because I was tending to Mum seven days a week.”

On Tuesday she added: “Last night was the first night I was able to come home, cook tea, and sit down to have it with Davie [her husband] because I was always back and forth and having to be at Mum’s.”

Major recruitment concerns in health and care 

Fay Thomson chairs campaign group SOS NHS Skye. Pic Willie Urquhart

NHS Highland have given further details this week of the recruitment problems in health and care facilities across Skye.

Responding to ongoing concerns from local campaign group SOS NHS Skye, the health authority confirmed that Broadford Hospital is short of a total of “4.71 whole time equivalent” nurse positions, while Portree has 3.15 fewer nurses than it needs.

Home Farm care home in Portree, which is also owned by the NHS, is down three whole-time equivalent nursing care posts and 12 social care assistants.

There is also a requirement to recruit for a single 17.5 hour per week care at home post covering north Skye, the health authority told the Free Press.

A spokesman added: “There are a number of other posts pending and they will be advertised as soon as possible. There are a total 24 posts out for advert at this time.”

Last week, SOS NHS Skye said that, at a meeting towards the end of February, NHS Highland managers had used the figure of 62 job vacancies in Skye and Lochalsh.

Responding to concerns that the job adverts were not being refreshed often enough, he said: “The national system NHS Highland uses for job vacancies removes posts from their website as soon as the closing date for each vacancy passes.

“We are working closely with our colleagues in recruitment to address this issue, so that unfilled posts can remain live on the website until they are filled.”

Fay Thomson, chair of SOS NHS Skye, wondered why it has taken so long to restore the ability for NHS Highland to post rolling job adverts on the various platforms. She also pointed out that the national system advertises posts in total hours rather than number of positions, with 229.5 hours the allocation for Home Farm.

This, said Ms Thomson, represents 6.12 full-time health social care assistant jobs, not 12 as given by NHS Highland.