THE Scottish Government needs to invest between £200 and £250 million immediately to stave off a care crisis, according to care home operators.

Donald MacAskill, chief executive of Scottish Care, said finance secretary Derek Mackay should invest the sum – an increase of between six and eight per cent of current spending – in recognition of the changing needs of Scotland's elderly population.

He said care homes were dealing with a wide age range – one home has a youngest resident of 52, while the oldest is 105, and a population which is increasingly frail with high level needs. Many have dementia or are receiving end of life care.

But funding is now a decade out of date, at a level which was appropriate when care home residents were generally healthier and younger, Dr MacAskill said.

"I cannot remember a period of such real threat to the sustainability of the care home sector. Things are very fragile indeed. We cannot for long continue to under-resource the sector," he said.

"The truth is that today care homes are effectively mini hospitals and hospices settled right into the heart of our communities - but we do not treat them like that, we do not resource or fund them like that, they are truly the Cinderella service of health and social care."

Dr MacAskill called for a serious national debate about how we pay to fund social care. Rumours of a proposal to tax the over 40s to fund care at Westminster suggested at least the possibility of a cross-party debate, he said. "We are not even having that debate in Scotland."

meanwhile the chaos over Brexit is puttingthe future of at least 7,000 Scottish care workers who hail fromEU countries at risk, he said. ." At least six per cent of ourworkforce are ffromEU countries. The fogu of uncertaiunty for them has only been compoutned by the activties of the last 48 hours," he said.

Meanwhile because of cuts to funding at local authority level, only those with the mhighest needs are likely to get home care or a place in a care home, he said. "That is costing money, reducing people's qulaity of life and ultimately costing lives.

"We need to see ring fenced money for care homes and adult social care.

Many workers from the EU are among the best in the sector, he said: "We are losing some of the most talented gifted individuals hwo are caring for ouir nation. We can't continue to treat them as low skilled and social care as a lowly profession."

"We are trying to reasure people about the future, but that is not in our gift to do, it is in the gift of squalbbling politicans at Westminster.

Speaking to the National Care Home Conference inGlasgow Dr Macaskill said "We are in danger of creating a bargain basement care home sector trying to deliver high quality care on the cheap."

Dr Macaskill will make his address as Scottish Care unveils a new report, entitled Care homes: Then, now and the uncertain future.

He will claim that nine out of 10 providers are struggling to recruit staff

A Scottish Government spokesman said the National Care Home Contract has seen year-on-year increases in the contract fee, amounting to 42% cumulatively.

He added: "Care homes have received unprecedented support, despite a challenging financial backdrop.

"We have integrated health and social care to ensure we can provide flexible, responsive, high quality services.

"Integration authorities are responsible for almost £9 billion of funding, receiving more than £550 million of additional investment this year.

"While a significant amount of work and investment has gone into supporting older or vulnerable people to live well in their own homes for longer, we recognise the role of the care home within the wider integrated health and social care system and we welcome this report."