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Staff shortages leave 96-year-old woman without care for a weekend

Moray MSP Richard Lochhead (left) has led calls to avoid a repeat of an incident where a 96-year-old Moray woman was left without care over the weekend.
Moray MSP Richard Lochhead (left) has led calls to avoid a repeat of an incident where a 96-year-old Moray woman was left without care over the weekend.

Calls have been made to address a “care crisis” in Moray after a 96-year-old woman was left to her own devices at the weekend.

The Elgin pensioner, who suffers from arthritis and poor hearing, had been due to receive a visit from carers from Cera Care on Saturday morning.

However, around 5pm on Friday, Moray Council contacted her daughter Fiona MacLeod to ask if a family member could step in.

Care required at short notice

Mrs MacLeod, who lives on Skye, was unable to attend due to an eye condition preventing her from driving.

Her sister, who lives closer in the Black Isle, is in her 70s and unable to drive.

After informing Moray Council nobody could attend at such short notice, the family assumed some form of care arrangement would be put in place.

But they were left shocked on Saturday morning after trying to contact their mother and receiving no response.

Pensioner sat unaware for more than two hours

Mrs MacLeod and her sister tried their mother around one hour after her scheduled 9am visit.

The pair kept trying to get hold of her, before they were able to get a family friend to attend.

The 96-year-old, unaware of the scenario playing out, was still in her bed, unfed and unmedicated, at 11.30am – two-and-a-half hours after her scheduled visit.

Mrs MacLeod is now calling for action to avoid a repeat of the ordeal.

Concern that others may not have been so lucky

She said: “It was quite worrying.

“If they couldn’t provide the care over the weekend, why leave it until Friday afternoon to tell us? Where were Moray Council supposed to get the carers at such short notice?

“Everything ended up OK in the end for my mother.

“I just couldn’t imagine other people waiting for care that didn’t come and not knowing if they were going to get somebody.”

Mrs MacLeod says an on-call social worker told her that Cera Care workers had walked out on Friday, causing the outage.

“I just want to make sure than none of this happens again.”

Fiona MacLeod

She said: “I just want to make sure that none of this happens again but I do want people to be aware that it is happening.

“There are major issues that have to be addressed with care – there have been for a long time.

“On the whole, my mother has only had care for the last four years or so, it has been amazing and we have had no calls to complain whatsoever.

“But this is unacceptable if nothing else.

“It is inhumane and borders on neglect.”

‘Unforeseen circumstances’ caused staff shortages

Cera cited a number of “unforeseen circumstances” for the shortage, including positive Covid-19 results, isolation, bereavements and general sickness.

The care company said they informed Moray Council on Thursday that it was anticipating it would be unable to fulfil its weekend requirements.

A spokesman said: “This was very much an isolated occasion.

“We can confirm definitively that there was no staff ‘walk-out’, or anything of this nature.”

He added that Cera Care and Moray Council are reaching out to the affected patient.

Cera Care provide care to more than 120 people in the local community in Moray.

Pandemic continues to provide pressures

Health and Social Care Moray apologised and accepted it had been a “frustrating and anxious time” for families.

Service manager John Campbell said the pandemic is still having a “significant and detrimental impact on staff numbers”.

He said the sector is experiencing challenges on an “unprecedented level”.

Mr Campbell said the situation arose at short notice.

He added: “Once identified, care was allocated in order to meet individual needs and to ensure that everyone receiving a service was kept safe.

“The wellbeing of service users and staff remain paramount to the partnership.”

Moray MSP Richard Lochhead, who aided Mrs MacLeod on Saturday, said he recognised the events were “clearly distressing”.

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Richard Lochhead outside Dr Gray’s. Hospital, Elgin.

He feels “there is no doubt” pressure on the care service due to Brexit and the UK’s immigration policy.

He said: “With an ageing population and decline in working age population the challenges are clear.

“It is vital that we do everything we can to ensure everyone in the later stages of life receives the care they deserve and expect.”

‘Remobilisation of NHS is one of our number one priorities’

The Scottish Government say they are in daily contact with health boards and social care partnerships.

They say assurances have been provided that support services of the most clinical urgency will continue “during this challenging period”.

A spokeswoman said: “We are very sorry that Mrs MacLeod, her mother and family have experienced this distressing situation.

“It is right that Moray Council are addressing the issues that have been raised – and we would encourage them to do so swiftly.”

She added that “the remobilisation of the NHS is one of our number one priorities”.

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