At Leuchie House, Scotland’s National Respite Centre in North Berwick, it has been another tumultuous year. Like the rest of the nation, we must now balance our aspirations and ambition with the clear and present danger of the new Omicron strain of Covid. The only certainty these days seems to be that nothing is certain, but one thing we are 100 per cent sure of is the vital importance of social care to support the national public health effort.
The NHS was rightly lauded and admired for its response to the pandemic, but let’s not forget that the way our health service mobilised and adapted to one of the biggest challenges of our lifetime, was crucially underpinned by the unsung heroes in social care.
At this time last year, Scotland had the unwanted distinction of having the most prevalent rate of Covid in Europe, while East Lothian – where we are based - had the highest rate of increase in Scotland.
A legion of people in social care worked incredibly hard to support our NHS. In our case that included running a step-down service, freeing up hospital beds by taking patients from hospital and caring for them at Leuchie House. Our team demonstrated their commitment and professionalism by changing from working a pattern which gave them every second weekend off, to working 24/7, covering hundreds of extra shifts.
As Covid rates became more manageable and life became safer in 2021, we have been able to return to offering our normal respite service, welcoming our guests – who live with neurological conditions such as MS, MND, stroke and Parkinson’s - back to the house for short breaks.
It has been heart-wrenching to see that many who had been isolating at home have significantly regressed: losing mobility, function and in some cases developing worrying additional health concerns.
Our in-house care and allied health team have worked to the point of their own exhaustion, giving exhausted family carers a break and to improve the health and wellbeing of their loved ones when they come to Leuchie: we have repaired wheelchairs, helped to fix peoples posture, undertaken medical assessments, and introduced many to the benefits of technology.
In these ways we have been supporting people who otherwise would have needed the services of our stretched NHS.
The NHS employs around 160,000 people in Scotland, while the total working in social care is significantly more at 210,000. In a recent survey in England, 1 in 10 workers were leaving social care because of the pressures of work, and some services are seeing 34% turnover in staff. We are thankful at Leuchie to be fully staffed, but we stand united with other organisations feeling the strain and the staff who have been impacted.
As we approach Christmas and many look forward to a well-earned and much needed break, please spare a moment to think not only of our NHS but also those who will be working in social care over the festive period.
For more information about Leuchie House visit: www.leuchiehouse.org.uk
Emma Jenson, Head of Care, Leuchie House