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Health and social care staff honoured for flood evacuation of care home residents

18/03/16

Aberdeen health and social care workers have been highly commended in a national awards scheme for their prompt evacuation of almost 100 care home residents during January's floods.

The Aberdeen City Council team involved in the evacuations from the Grandholm, Persley and Woodside care homes won the accolade in the Scottish Association of Social Workers national awards.

City health and social care staff were called into action on 07 January in the wake of warnings from the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) that a flood surge was heading down the River Don towards Aberdeen following a week's record-breaking rainfall.

City Council officials quickly realised that the three care homes were in the path of the surge and at severe risk of inundation and power cuts and of being cut off by the rising water.

The pre-prepared emergency plan swung into action. An emergency was declared as soon as the level of risk became evident – and the huge task of evacuating scores of care home residents then began as darkness gathered and road conditions worsened in the driving rain.

The care homes had only limited numbers of staff with which to manage the situation and so the City Council deployed all available social work staff and care managers to help co-ordinate the evacuations.

Flooded roads forced some staff to abandon their cars and walk to the sites to give assistance.

The social work and community health teams worked in close collaboration with SEPA, the emergency services from Police Scotland and Scottish Fire & Rescue, and staff from Bon Accord Care to co-ordinate their emergency response, which involved some 85 older residents in the three homes.

Transport was mustered to help with the evacuations, including taxis and minibuses. The massive exercise involved moving not just the care home residents but also in many cases their specialised beds, hoists and other personalised equipment.

All available bed spaces in care homes across the city were used to re-house most of the residents for the night. But that left 21 folk still to be evacuated, who were accommodated in a mothballed hospital ward which was rapidly re-opened and comfortably fitted out.

The effort lasted from early evening into the small hours of the following morning – and was later described by the Scottish Government as "unprecedented" in Scotland in its scale and efficiency.

The floods receded after stopping just short of the three properties, and the entire evacuation was then put into reverse through the following day to ensure all the residents were transported back to the familiar surroundings of their own homes.

Simultaneously, the same group of managers also began co-ordinating further potential evacuations from communities in the west of the city, included vulnerable people in their own homes, following warnings that the River Dee could burst its banks.

Chair of the city's health and social care Integrated Joint Board Councillor Len Ironside said: "This was a hugely complicated exercise, undertaken at very short notice and in extremely difficult conditions.

"Despite the complexity of the task, no older people were injured or adversely affected. The whole city should be proud of what our staff achieved. They showed great bravery, sensitivity and dedication to duty. They are a credit to Aberdeen and to their profession."

Aberdeen City Health & Social Care Partnership Chief Officer Judith Proctor said: "This evacuation was only possible because of the selfless endeavours of a large number of our staff, who were ready to turn out in appalling conditions to help folk in great need of immediate assistance.

"The Highly Commended award is testament too to the quality of the leadership team within Adult Social Work, and their colleagues in Community Health. I am proud to be associated with everyone who was involved in the evacuation, including the many staff from other services who played a crucial role."

The team was competing in the 'Best Example of Collaborative Working in an Integrated Setting' category and received the commendation at a gala dinner at Edinburgh's Ghillie Dhu restaurant last night.

ENDS