THE wife of a man who has been wheelchair-bound for seven years has revealed how he was left in bed all day for weeks because of a shortage of carers.

Anne Harkness struggled to help husband Ronnie, who has multiple sclerosis, get in and out of his wheelchair but could not get the ‘double up’ care package needed.

Instead she was told Ronnie, who is 58, would have to be left in bed all day.

Anne described getting the care needed to help look after her husband at their home in Prestonpans as a daily battle.

She told the Courier: “Every day is a fight, we are always fighting for something. It is a struggle and frustrating. The care system in East Lothian just isn’t working the way it should.”

Mum-of-three Anne, 56, has battled her own health conditions after she was diagnosed with lupus in her twenties and underwent cancer treatment in her thirties.

The family moved to Prestonpans from Longniddry two and a half years ago after Anne said she was told there were no carers to support her in the village.

In January this year it was agreed that two carers would be needed to help Ronnie get out of bed, using a hoist, and return to it in the evening.

But the care provider said they simply did not have the staff.

Anne said: “Their solution was to leave him in bed. It was weeks before we were able to get any extra help and I had to phone constantly asking when it would be available.

“Ronnie is not elderly – money is deducted from his benefits to pay for the care package, it is not free – yet we couldn’t get what he needed.”

The couple live on Polwarth Terrace and Anne said when she asked how she was supposed to help her husband get to the bathroom she was told to press the emergency alarm, installed in her home, to call for assistance. But even then, there was no guarantee help would come quickly.

She said: “On one occasion I called because Ronnie was slipping in his wheelchair and needed to go back to bed.

“They didn’t arrive for two and a half hours by which point he had fallen onto the floor and I wasn’t able to get him up.

“There aren’t enough carers in East Lothian: it is hit and miss where they are when you call for help. East Lothian Council needs to improve its care services by paying the carers more or improving their working conditions.

“We are not alone in our situation: there are many others who need assistance and that number is only going to go up.”

Anne spoke out after the Courier last month revealed the plight of pensioner David Paton, whose wife Barbara put him into emergency respite care rather than see him left in bed all day because she could not get a second carer to help him get up.

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One carer told the Courier that pay was a major issue in the county, with providers offering them hourly rates that only pay for the time spent with clients and no allowance for travel.

She said: “Sometimes you would be paid for seven hours’ work when the reality would be it was a 15-hour shift because of travel.

“By the time that was factored in the pay would not even meet the minimum living wage.”

An East Lothian Health and Social Care Partnership spokesperson said: “While we cannot comment on individual cases, I can say that only very rarely are providers unable to deliver the packages of care they have been commissioned to provide.

“When this does happen, the partnership works with service-users and families to ensure that alternative appropriate care is put in place as soon as possible.

“We monitor situations like these very closely and the welfare of the service-user is at the forefront of everything we do.

“I can also confirm that the partnership has approached all our contracted providers to look at new ways of working which help maximise the care available to address these issues in the longer term.”