Lorn loses ‘only nursing home’ due to nurse shortage

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Argyll is in the grip of a nursing ‘crisis’, causing Oban to lose ‘the only nursing home’ in the area, and requiring the town’s hospital to fill gaps with agency staff, a meeting of health officials was told.

The privately-run Lynn of Lorne Care Home in Benderloch, which looks after 62 residents, is withdrawing nursing care due to a shortage of staff.

McKenzie Care gave 13 weeks’ notice on April 30 to end its contract with Argyll and Bute’s Health and Social Care Partnership (HSCP).

A meeting with relatives last month, led by McKenzie Care’s director of care Jackie Weston and the Argyll and Bute HSCP local area manager Shaun Davidson, heard up to 25 residents currently need nursing care.

All residents’ needs are being reassessed but there is a risk some may have to move out of the Oban area to ensure their needs are met – to care homes as far as Ballachulish or Helensburgh, or even further because these homes may not have the rooms or carers required.

One concerned relative contacted The Oban Times. He said: ‘How are they going to cope with the move?’, adding that Oban was not building the infrastructure for its growing population of elderly people.

‘We are just passing our problems onto another area,’ he said. ‘People are living longer. They are going to need beds. We should be opening up a ward or two for people who need 24-hour care.

‘If there is space in Oban hospital, get it open and use it. Or they must build premises. It is time for a purpose-built facility.’

The minutes of the meeting, seen by The Oban Times, set out the difficulty the Lynn of Lorne had recruiting nurses in a rural area, despite offering incentives such as a starting bonus, and paying 13 per cent over the COSLA-agreed rate.

It is a national crisis facing local hospitals too, Ms Weston said.
Mr Davidson said that Oban’s Lorn and Islands Hospital ‘is using agency at the moment due to the shortage of nurses’.

Currently, the Lynn of Lorne is run using 50 per cent agency staff, with no night-shift nurses, one permanent nurse and two bank nursing staff.

The Lynn of Lorne made a ‘business decision’ that it could no longer provide 24-hour nursing care and would, instead, become an enhanced residential care service.

Ms Weston explained the Lynn of Lorne could not attract nurses, and could not run the home using agency staff long-term: ‘Nurse agencies charge two and a half times per hour what we pay our nurses. We also have to pay travel costs to nurse agencies.’

The Lynn of Lorne had hoped to be part of a pilot project to run the home with ‘upskilled’ senior staff without a nurse, which would be temporary while it tried to recruit nurses, but its grades failed to meet the Care Inspectorate’s criteria.

Ms Weston explained: ‘Lynn of Lorne did not achieve grades of four, required in all four assessment areas, to be considered for the pilot scheme.

‘The Care Inspectorate recognises we have made improvements and will reassess grades at future inspection.’

One relative said ‘care now is the best it has been’ at Lynn of Lorne, and that it was ‘devastating’ there would now be no nursing home in the local area.