Alex Neil, the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Well-being, told a reception to mark Leuchie Week that without places like Leuchie House offering caring respite breaks, the growing numbers of people with long-term conditions would have nowhere to look after them and their carers, putting more strain on the health service.
Speaking during the Holyrood reception which was hosted by Leuchie House’s local MSP, Iain Gray, the Minister spoke of the dedication, commitment and professionalism of the staff at Leuchie House, which is a unique facility in East Lothian offering people with long-term conditions and their carers respite breaks with 24-hour expert nursing care in a non-clinical environment.
He said: “Getting a break is extremely important. Quality of life for people with long-term conditions must be a top priority for all of us.”
Iain Gray, a long-time supporter of Leuchie House, told the guests – who included many of those currently enjoying respite breaks at Leuchie: “Leuchie House provides holidays for people dealing with very difficult disabilities and they challenge our assumption that these people are not entitled to have the same holiday as everyone else.”
Speaking of the everyday difficulties faced by people with long-term conditions and their carers, Iain Gray said: “Access to Leuchie House is the only thing that makes it possible for them to continue living at home.” Leuchie House cares for people and their carers living with a variety of long-term conditions, such as Multiple Sclerosis, Huntington’s, Parkinson’s, Motor Neurone Disease, stroke and spinal injuries.
Leuchie House’s Chairman, Sir David Tweedie and the CEO Mairi O’Keefe also spoke to MSPs, supporters and Leuchie guests. One of Leuchie House’s regular respite care guests, Mhairi McCran, spoke very movingly about the difference the respite breaks at Leuchie House has made to her and her family, saying the regular respite provided “a light at the end of a very dark tunnel.”
Leuchie Week highlighted the message that people deserve quality and choice when it comes to respite care, focusing on:
Cost - It is estimated that the 1 in 8 people finding themselves filling the role of carer for a family member save the health and social care system in Scotland £10.3 billion each year;
Choice – For many people in Scotland living with a long-term physical condition, the only alternative to Leuchie House for respite care would be a hospital bed or a place in an old people’s residential home – both entirely inappropriate for younger people or those who live in an environment with limited social interaction or stimulation. From next year, people and their carers will also have more choice in choosing and funding their respite care under Self-directed Support;
Integration of health and social care – People living with long-term conditions and their carers need a joined-up approach to their care requirements as well as freedom to control their budgets.
At the moment, most people’s social care is managed by their local authority but under the Social Care (Self-directed Support) (Scotland) Act 2013, from next year people will have greater choice to select the type of support and care that meets their needs.
Self-directed Support will mean that local authorities must offer everyone the following options: they can choose to receive direct payments to purchase the support themselves; they can select their support but let the local authority arrange it on their behalf or let the council select the appropriate support and arrange it for them. They can also choose a mixture of these options.
Mairi O’Keefe, Chief Executive of the independent charity, said: “The importance of life-enhancing breaks for people with long-term conditions and their families can’t be overemphasised. It gives them and their carers a well-earned chance to recharge their batteries and enables them to carry on without having to take up hard-pressed NHS resources.”