More than 10,000 Scots are stuck on “shockingly high” social care waiting lists, prompting campaigners to call for urgent action before the situations deteriorates.
Data from Public Health Scotland published on Tuesday showed that as of 3 July, 3,964 people were waiting for a package of care at home to be put in place. A further 6,253 people were waiting for a social care assessment.
The charity Age Scotland said it was “wholly unacceptable for so many older people to spend weeks or months in limbo” waiting to be assessed or to receive help.
It said its helpline received calls from elderly people and their families “on a daily basis” about long waits for home services, which can include personal care, cleaning and meal preparation.
Interim CEO, Katherine Crawford, said: “The longer people wait for care, the more acute their needs can become.
“Urgent action is required from Government, councils and policy-makers to address the staggering fact that there are over 10,000 people across the country who are not currently getting the care they need and are entitled to.
“Considering the additional pressure the social care sector faces every winter, our fear is that this will only get worse as the year progresses and ramp up during the colder months, causing greater pressure on the NHS and poorer health outcomes for older people.
“Once again, this demonstrates the undeniable need for reform in social care, both in terms of effective delivery and significant funding boosts.
“There is no choice but to be bold on reform to ensure we have a social care system that delivers for everyone who needs it.”
The figures were published less than a fortnight after industry leaders warned that one care home in Scotland is closing every week on average, due mainly to underfunding and a shortage of staff.
Scottish Care, which represents private care providers, said a 6 per cent increase in the fees that businesses can charge per week was not enough for some to remain viable.
The Scottish Government is planning major reforms to social care through the creation of a National Care Service, but the plans are currently being redrawn after being heavily criticised.
MSPs at Holyrood are now not set to vote on the legislation setting up the new service until next year.
Scottish Labour’s health spokeswoman, Jackie Baillie, said the “shocking” figures were an “indictment of the SNP’s plans to rejuvenate the care sector and show how superficial the level of engagement with the sector has been”.
“While the SNP wasted months investing in a poorly planned National Care Service and ignoring the many valid criticisms of their plans, the social care sector continued to suffer from underinvestment and workforce shortages,” she added.
The Scottish Government was approached for comment.