ELDERLY residents have been left anxious as Fife Council makes changes to care at home packages amid unprecedented demand for services.

Local MSP Alex Rowley claims that health and social care services in Fife are in "crisis" heading into winter and that some older service-users have been left concerned and worried by letters sent out by the council over changes to their home care.

Due to rising demand for services, some users may not be able to have a carer visit them on "rare" occasions.

In a letter sent out by Cindy Graham, service manager for Care at Home Services, to a Fife resident, she said: "You may be aware of the current challenging situation that Care at Home Services are facing at this time. This is linked to increased admissions in our hospitals, an increasing need for packages of care to support people leaving hospital and significant pressures on our level of staffing.

"I am writing to advise that we will endeavour to continue to provide you with a care service, however, we must prioritise those who are living alone or have limited or no access to any alternative support."

Ms Graham said that, for those receiving a service, times of visits would likely be affected and carers may be different.

She continued: "You may also not receive care from your usual carer or the carer that you were expecting. On the rare occasion, it may also be necessary to advise you that we do not have a carer to visit, and we will contact you and discuss alternative solutions.

"We hope these measures will only be in place for a limited time and we appreciate your support and patience as we get through these challenging times. Please be assured that any change to your service at this time will not mean you will lose your care package."

Raising concerns over the letter, Mr Rowley wrote to Steve Grimmond, Fife Council's chief executive, to highlight the need for clarity.

Commenting on the issue, the Mid-Scotland and Fife MSP, said: "We seem to have reached a point where care services are unable to provide the services to meet the needs of the people of Fife and the answer the council has come up with is to cut back on those who currently receive a service. This letter that has been sent to older people is causing concern and worry for existing service-users and will not solve the problems.

“We must have full transparency from Fife Council on the extent of the issues it is facing and, crucially, what plans are in place to address the issues and the timeline for this.

“As well as frightening current service-users with these letters, the failure to meet the demand for care services will have a knock-on impact on the need for people to get care and the numbers of people who will end up being admitted to hospital as a direct result of the failure to provide health and social care within the community.

"We are heading into winter it would seem with health and social care services in crisis and no visible plan to address these issues other than to cut the service to those who already receive it.

“This is an unacceptable situation and those with responsibility for managing these services must set out the extent of the problems and a clear plan for addressing them."

Lynne Garvey, head of community care service, Fife Health and Social Care Partnership, told the Press that "demand for care at home packages is unprecedented" and a recruitment drive was ongoing to secure staff for available positions.

She said: "Ensuring our most vulnerable people have the care at home they need is a priority and our staff are working extremely hard to meet the needs of service-users during this extremely challenging time.

"It may not always be possible for visits to be carried out by usual carers and the timings of visits may vary – we apologise for this and we appreciate the support and patience from those receiving the care at home services at this time.

"There is a recruitment drive in place to attract more home carers and 40 new carers are currently being recruited to grow the service. We will continue to progress further recruitment and work with partners and private providers to test different models to optimise person-centred care to ensure we meet the needs of the people in Fife."