Pioneer care scheme falters after too few seek support

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Lismore and Appin’s ‘successful’ new care scheme is under threat after too few people signed up to it, resulting in the coordinator’s post not being renewed.

The Appin and Lismore Community Care Scheme, a social enterprise model of home care employing local carers to care for local people, was due to be rolled out across Argyll after its 12-month trial ends in October.

A Lismore carer told us the innovative project was the ‘ideal solution’ to problems faced in remote Argyll, as growing numbers retire to ‘paradise’ only to find old age turns into a ‘nightmare’.

But one carer on Lismore, retired teacher and ‘potential client’ Mary MacDougall, fears the island is now losing its ‘highly successful’ home care service, saying: ‘My 90-year-old mum receives care from this group, and she and I are anxious about this.’

She told The Oban Times the care was ‘inadequate’ before because external carers didn’t turn up due to cancelled or missed ferries, or left when they could not find clients in their allotted time.

In 2016 Appin Community Trust successfully bid for £17,000 from the Integrated Care Fund to employ a care coordinator, Elizabeth Bruce, for a year through Highland Home Care. A team of Lismore and Appin Carers were recruited and trained, even winning a Scottish Care Award this year.

Ms MacDougall continued: ‘Care in the community, by members of the community, seemed the ideal solution. We can give them the care. We have had the training. A person could be looked after in their own home without any distress.

‘If an elderly person falls in Lismore, there is no doctor, no nurse. The person is lifted by helicopter to Oban. They cannot hospital leave until there is a care package in place. How much does that cost?’

The scheme, she said, had stopped ill and elderly islanders ‘bed blocking’ Oban and Glasgow hospitals, or forever leaving for sheltered housing and care homes far from family and friends on the mainland, ‘which must be more expensive for Argyll and Bute’.

‘But it seems, like all good ideas in Argyll and Bute, it’s going to be scrapped and all the costly training will neither benefit our communities nor Argyll and Bute Council,’ said Ms MacDougall.

‘Liz has been given notice that her job ends on October 15. She made sure we were competent and confident to look after people. I would give Liz a full-time job and send her to other islands. They all have the same problem: a stretch of water between them and help.’

Islander John Livingstone, who died of cancer in August, spent his remaining time at home with family on Lismore thanks to Liz Bruce and the carers’ support, his son Andrew told us.

He said: ‘It meant everything for him. He would have gone downhill a lot quicker if he had gone into hospital. We would not have been able to spend that much time with him. It worked very well. They were able to tell us how to make a hard situation very much easier.’

Argyll and Bute Health and Social Care Partnership stated: ‘Funding for the care coordinator would be generated from a percentage of the funding they received for each client they supported. However, local residents in Appin and Lismore who receive care, like everyone else, have the legal right to choose their own care provider and the scheme has unfortunately been unable to attract sufficient residents to retain the coordinator’s post.

‘They had issues in recruiting and retaining staff which means they have also not been able to expand their care provision.

‘This model of care has been highly recommended and it is important we work together to build on the framework. We will continue to hopefully find a solution, and our priority is to ensure continuity of care for the clients living in Appin and Lismore.’