A man “trapped in a burning vehicle” has made an impassioned plea to safeguard the homecare service that guarantees him a smile each day to help ease his private hell.
Nairn pensioner Michael Laycock is among 18 people in the Highlands whose lives are slowly succumbing to the incurable condition of motor neurone disease.
He claims NHS Highland’s recent privatisation of homecare that comes to his rescue four times a day, and eases the burden for his wife of 40 years, has led to a deterioration of service.
Mr Laycock, 73, who has a sharp mind but is trapped in a largely paralysed state, adores his regular carers but alleges that carers brought in by private operators Highland Home Carers (HHC) Ltd are insufficiently trained.
The GMB union which represents many care workers, has been unable to raise the concerns that are shared by many staff with the health secretary due to her busy diary.
Speaking through a word processing facility on his iPad, Mr Laycock praised his past “angels” as “the ones who make my day start with laughter.”
But he told the Press and Journal: “When asked why they don’t employ more carers, the NHS cited the excuse of ‘poor quality of applicants and full employment in the Inverness area’.
“I had reason to complain to the private provider of care because of their carers’ lack of training and not knowing the basics.”
NHS Highland area manager Jean Pierre Sieczkarek insisted the board was “committed to providing a high quality of care at home at all times,” and was working in partnership with Highland Home Carers and other independent providers to ensure consistency of care.
HHC managing director Stephen Pennington said: “I understand that Mr Laycock has very complex needs and, therefore, any transition from a team who’ve been working with him for some time to new care workers is bound to be a period of huge anxiety.
“It’s not something you can train in a classroom. It’s actually about learning how to meet his needs by being with him. All our staff go through induction training and then spend up to three weeks out with other care workers learning the job as they go along.
“We have agreed with NHS Highland that because of Mr Laycock’s particular needs they will work alongside the current care team for a significant period.”
Mr Laycock, who was diagnosed in 2009, has a sharp mind, oozes good humour and writes moving and witty poetry including glowing tributes to his regular carers.
See some of his poetry here.
His wife Vivian has raised the concerns with local MP Drew Hendry, who said: “This is an emotive issue and I am seeking to meet with NHS Highland as soon as possible to see what can be done and make sure that the correct level of support is given to meet his needs.”
Liz Gordon of the GMB union, that represents many Highland care workers, said: “We’re disappointed that our request for a meeting with the Health Secretary Shona Robison has been turned down.
“It appears the SNP are not as interested in the protection of the service as they would have the public believe.”
Labour MSP Rhoda Grant, who made the request, said: “It seems unfathomable to refuse a meeting with union reps who know both sides to the story. Homecare is a huge issue.”
Ms Robison said: “We’re investing £500million to support the transition to integrated health and social care so people get the right care in the right place at the right time.
“The responsibility for delivering and commissioning care services on the ground lies with local authorities, NHS boards and integrated health and social care partnerships. This is, therefore, a matter for NHS Highland although we are clear that the quality of care provided should be paramount.”