Festive Blog from Scottish Care CEO, Dr Donald Macaskill

Twelve Christmas words and wishes

The Christmas and New Year period mean different things to different folk. For me it’s an annual opportunity to engage in an ever failing effort to try to beat the quizzes in our newspapers. My competitive instinct comes to the fore when I convince myself (wrongly) that I really do know the name of Cruz Beckham’s first solo or the winning baker in the Great British Bake Off.

But it’s also a time of reflection, recollection and reconsideration.

2016 has been a busy and ‘interesting’ year. For me personally it’s seen the start of my role as CEO of Scottish Care and the start of these blogs on our new website. Looking back on them they have covered a wide range of topics. That is itself descriptive of the amazing scope of the independent care sector. But in the spirit of the season here are my Twelve Christmas words and wishes:


Scottish Care has produced two nursing reports in the last two months. https://www.scottishcare.org/nursing/ . I am grateful they have been so well received and that we are seeing progress on their recommendations. I was privileged to conduct one of the interviews in the Voices report and that conversation has left a deep impression on me. It was with a dedicated nurse who was growing tired of workload pressures and the lack of value accorded to her role in caring for older people. She felt that others viewed her as ‘just a care home nurse’. So my Christmas wish would be for a society that values nurses who care for our older citizens wherever they work whether care home or an acute hospital ward.

Palliative Care.

I’ve personally spent a lot of time with people at the end of their life. There is a transparent truthfulness and honesty at such times and in such conversations. But the discussions I have had this year with frontline care staff show me that we aren’t giving enough time to paid carers to be with those who need simply to talk, to sit and be still, to have someone bandage up their fears as much as to attend to their physical pain. So my Christmas wish would be for a society that values those who sit and hold the hands of the dying by adequately resourcing their work.


For me dementia has been a personal and professional concern. My mothers’ own journey with the disease came to an end this past year. Dementia takes over your living when it comes into your family; its rhythm is one which echoes emptiness where once there had been shared memory and story. But I also want to celebrate the capacity and contribution of those who live with dementia rather than, as some do, seeing people with dementia as a problem to be addressed. So my Christmas wish is that people will stop talking about dementia ‘sufferers’ and start celebrating dementia lives.

Human Rights

The beating heart of any society is the degree to which it speaks for the voiceless and recognises those on the margins. Human rights provide the language for such an articulation; they are the vocabulary that enables people to be treated and dealt with not out of sympathy or charity but as equal citizens of a community. So my wish for Christmas is that in Scotland we continue to challenge instances where the rights of our older citizens are minimised, ignored or suppressed. There is no use-by-date on one’s rights.

Living Wage

My first public words in my new role as Scottish Care CEO were a positive recognition of the decision to pay frontline care staff the Scottish Living Wage. Yes, it has been hard and at times a challenge to implement – but the positivity of giving people a wage by which their work of care is valued cannot be downplayed. So my Christmas wish is not only that we are able to build on what we have started and to improve the terms and conditions of carers, but that we work to create a society where those who care are accorded the greatest possible societal value and are awarded appropriate financial reward.

Care Home Reform

33,000 people live in our care homes and this year has reminded me of the astonishing brilliance of the care which is received by so many. But that care comes at a cost. The reform process which has occupied Scottish Care and our partners in the last few months, is seeking to build on existing best practice so that we create a care home sector fit for the future. So my Christmas wish is that Scotland has the courage to adequately fund the care of some of our most vulnerable citizens.


The negative, limiting image of people living in residential care or in their own homes and receiving support is often wholly wrong. I have met countless individuals who aren’t simply waiting for their end to visit them but are striding out to own their futures, living with enthusiasm and energy in the face of illness and long-term conditions. Too often society constructs isolation and fosters loneliness by doing things that fail to include, engage and involve our older citizens. The lives of those in care homes and in their own homes are rich to overflowing with dreams still to be realised and contribution lying untapped. So my Christmas wish is that as a society we stay silent for just a second to ask and listen to what older people want from the Scotland that is their home and their future, and to learn what older people can give to the rest of us both now and tomorrow.


Perhaps more than anything in the work I do I have become increasingly aware that we treat people differently based on an artificial number – usually 65, sometimes 70,

sometimes 80. I have written this year that the time is right to stop using language such as demographic ‘time bomb’, to stop subconsciously regretting longevity, and instead to seize the opportunities given by longer and healthier living. But I know that real discrimination happens daily for many of our older citizens, so my Christmas wish is that in 2017 civic society in Scotland will come together and work towards creating a legal framework that adequately protects the rights of older Scots.


2016 has been a year of struggle for many of the providers who offer care services across Scotland. I have had too many conversations with individuals who have felt that the pressures of viability and unsustainability have become overwhelming. I have personally despaired of the system of competitive tendering of social care, especially in care at home services, which makes a mockery of dignity and is as far away from person centred care as the heavens are from the sea. So my Christmas wish is that collectively we find a way in which social care can be arranged which will banish forever the obscenity of 15 minute visits and enable small, often family run businesses not only survive but thrive in the giving of care.


Partnership working, co-production and collaboration have almost become the buzzwords of the age. They speak to the potential of finding common cause, working together for the benefit of the person needing support and focusing on outcomes rather than systems. Where I have seen partnership work it has fostered remarkable innovation, enabled shared risk-taking and created mutual respect. But independent social care providers have struggled with being heard and represented not least in our Integrated Joint Boards where only 7 out of 31 have representation. So my Christmas wish is that in the reshaping of social care in Scotland we don’t just talk the talk but walk the walk of partnership and realise that partnership without presence is meaningless.


And my last word and wish is that over the next few months and year we all of us, whether we commission care, work in direct support, receive care, or simply talk about care – that we all of us work together to daily celebrate the good rather than talk up the negative; that we give space to hear stories of compassion and care beyond cost; that we influence our media to tell our nation of the thousands of individual acts which every day go unnoticed, unmentioned and unheralded – because that is in essence what happens across Scotland today and everyday.

This Christmas I for one want to thank the 98,000 workers who are the life-blood not only of the independent care sector but also of our communities.

Merry Christmas

Donald Macaskill

Last Updated on 22nd December 2016 by Scottish Care

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