Auchinlee closes as £14m cuts loom

Auchinlee Care Home in Campbeltown. Photo courtesy of CrossReach.

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Auchinlee’s last six patients leave in two weeks before the Campbeltown dementia care home closes, but more ‘very difficult’ cuts are coming across Argyll to plug a £14m blackhole in this year’s health and social care budget.

A crunch meeting to decide Auchinlee’s fate at Argyll and Bute Council last February agreed to keep the loss-making 24 bed specialist home open for a year until March 31, costing £291,000 from its cash-strapped coffers.

Its owners Crossreach, a social care charity linked to the Church of Scotland, and Argyll and Bute Health and Social Care Partnership (HSCP) stated it was unsustainable due to huge six figure losses, including the high cost of recruiting agency workers to cover staff shortages in a rural area.

A campaign of relatives feared moving residents 130 miles away outside Argyll would shorten their lives. The parties promised no residents, subject to their individual needs and client choice, would be placed outside Kintyre, and that jobs would be protected.

Twelve posts were advertised and eight have been recruited, including six staff from Auchinlee, the HSCP updated councillors on the Mid Argyll, Kintyre and the Islands Area Committee on Wednesday. Building work finished on schedule at Lorne Campbell Court sheltered housing complex, where the last six residents will move to.

Meanwhile the HSCP announced it must make £14m worth of cuts in the next financial year – £6m more than it has planned for – meaning it won’t be able to deliver its strategic plan. However, the situation could have been worse: the HSCP was anticipating savings totaling £18.1m.

Caroline Whyte, HSCP’s chief financial officer, said: ‘While this improvement to the financial position is clearly welcomed, the fact remains we still have a very large budget gap and will require to identify and deliver new savings as well as continuing to meet increasing demand for health and social care services and rising costs due to inflation.’

Proposed changes to services are being reviewed to address the budget gap, and Ms Whyte warned of ‘very difficult decisions’ ahead, balancing ‘conflicting priorities in relation to maintaining quality of care, meeting treatment and waiting time performance standards and ensuring a balanced budget.

‘The pace of change will cause some anxiety and concerns for our staff and
local communities but we will continue to do more to explain why we need to make these changes happen.’

The proposed changes will be published on Wednesday March 21, before facing the Integration Joint Board for approval on Wednesday March 28.