ONE of the indices of a country’s level of civilisation is how it treats its elderly and, on that assessment, Scotland’s capital has been found wanting. Last year, the Care Inspectorate and Healthcare Improvement Scotland reported a series of failings in care of the elderly in Edinburgh, with some patients waiting 100 days for support. On nine quality indicators, four were “adequate”, four “weak” and one “unsatisfactory”.

Now a progress review by the same watchdog has found that performance has actually deteriorated in some areas and that, overall, only “limited progress” had been made. Despite improvements in risk management planning, and the continuing strong commitment of frontline staff and “some managers”, the situation looks dire. Adam McVey, Edinburgh City Council’s ruling SNP-Labour coalition, has in the past denied there was a “crisis”; a much over-used word, admittedly.

But when opposition councillors claim, as they did recently, that someone has to die or move away before the next person on the list can secure care, no one can say there is nothing to see here. The council’s social care problems have been described as among the worst in the UK, even if – as with other hard-pressed local authorities – it has tried to meet increased demand by making savings where it can.

Crisis or no crisis, it knows there is a problem and has promised to take action. Edinburgh Health and Social Care Partnership, the joint council-NHS Lothian organisation in charge, is developing a new carers’ strategy, with a pilot study showing a dramatic reduction in average waiting times. Less promising, arguably, is the creation of two new “leadership” positions. An approach that says, “Quick, appoint some new, well-paid officials”, might help. But we suspect it isn’t the answer. The answer, we know, isn’t easy to find. But if Edinburgh is to retain its reputation as the civilised city we all know it to be, it must ensure proper care for its elderly.