Thousands of care home places in Scotland have been lost since the onset of devolution prompting fears that the country’s “most vulnerable” are suffering and demands for government action.
There are now claims that ministers have failed to plan for the impact of an ageing population, despite repeated warnings.
But the Scottish Government says its policies are now directed towards ensuring that people can live independently to an older age in their own homes.
The number of registered care homes places fell by 3,685 since the turn of the century to 42,026 last year, according to official Scottish parliament figures. This includes 83 fewer local authority and NHS places last year, 290 fewer spaces in private facilities, and 103 fewer in voluntary facilities compared to 2014.
This is despite Scotland’s population ageing and the enduring problem of hospital bed blocking caused by delayed discharge across the country where elderly patients are fit to leave hospital, but have nowhere to go.
Conservative public health spokesman Miles Briggs said the reduction was proof the SNP hadn’t planned properly for the challenges of an ageing population.
“There are fewer places in council facilities, NHS facilities, private facilities and voluntary facilities.
“And all this is happening while our population is ageing and increasing. This cannot continue – we need to see an increase in the number of places available. It’s no wonder bed-blocking is such a problem while care home places remain limited.
“I appreciate it’s not entirely down to the Scottish Government to sort this problem out, but it must shoulder some responsibility.
“The SNP has been in charge for nearly a decade, and through that has been repeatedly warned about the need for planning for an ageing population.
Clearly that hasn’t happened, and vulnerable people are paying the price.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said; “Policies are enabling more people to live longer and more independently in their own homes, which results in fewer people needing residential care.
“We are providing more than £0.5 billion additional funding over three years to help Health and Social Care Partnerships establish new ways of working, and investing a further £250 million per year to protect and grow social care services.”