|Altham Meadow, Morecambe. Image: Google|
(Updated 14:32:: City Councillors have backed local concerns at the proposed closure of Morecambe's Altham Meadows Dementia Centre, supporting a Labour Party motion at last week's council meeting.
The debate was prompted by a recently-announced decision from Lancashire Care Foundation Trust to shut the Westgate-based centre and refocus dementia care Lancashire into just one single unit.
Councillors supported a motion which argues the closure of the site and subsequent shifting of Lancashire’s dementia care away from the area will have a devastating effect on dementia patients and their loved ones in the Lancaster and Morecambe district.
Councillor Ian Pattison, who brought the motion to Lancaster City Council, said, “There is a huge amount of concern locally over the proposed shifting of dementia services from our district. We believe it will make the lives of those suffering with dementia and their loved ones much more difficult.
"It was good to have the unanimous support of the entire council on this issue. Let’s just hope those with the power to do something on this decision take notice of what residents are saying.”
The Chief Executive of Lancaster City Council will now write to Lancashire Care Foundation Trust and North Lancashire Clinical Commissioning Group to express deep concern at the proposed closure.
"A relocation... would remove a lifeline for many residents in Lancaster and Morecambe," feels Councillor David Whittaker. "There is increasing demand for dementia care and other mental health conditions in our area.
"We are seeing more younger people requiring dementia care and medical intervention - it is not just a matter for older persons anymore.
"Various discussions in regard to the Health Service have taken place in recent months and this is an issue of paramount importance because it will affect an increasing number of local people.
"Dementia services need to be modernised and we need to do more to measure up to the requirements of a changing generation living with dementia," he agreed. "However moving this vital service to a less accessible location endangers the viability of person-centred care for both the user and those who care for them".
The proposed closure of Altham Meadows follows a consultation earlier in the year by the Trust, which offered two options for addressing demementia community and inpatient services. The first proposed a single site in Blackpool with extensive community services. The second suggested two sites in Blackpool and Blackburn with reduced community services.
There are currently 17,607 people aged 65 and over in Lancashire with dementia and at least 317 people with dementia in Lancashire under the age of 65. Numbers are expected to increase to 25,611 (by 2025), a projected increase of nearly 50%.
In the Lancaster area alone, there were an estimated 456 new cases of dementia in 2012, with 14 admissions to specialist dementia beds. The estimated dementia prevalence in our area is estimated at 1985 people.
NHS Lancashire argues evidence shows there is a clear reduction in the need for specialist dementia inpatient beds.
Following the consultation the Blackpool option was selected by more respondents than a dual centre refocus, but most Clinical Commissioning Groups and Councils expressed a view that the dementia beds should be located in a place more central to Lancashire and not in Blackpool.
The NHS Lancashire Board approved the development of specialist dementia services, but recognised that an alternative site for the development of the dementia inpatient unit needed to be considered. CCGs and Councils, in partnership with Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust, are now undertaking an appraisal of options for the site of the single specialist dementia unit.
"CCG and Local Authority commissioners need to develop solutions to the access and travel issues and ensure that these are put in place at an appropriate level to meet need before the dementia inpatient unit is open," said the Board in a press statement. "The Board also stated that CCG and Local Authority commissioners need to work with Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust to address the other critical issues and concerns raised during the consultation, with particular regard to supporting people and families living with dementia across the whole care pathway and ensuring appropriate access to memory assessment services."
The Morecambe Visitor report in its 17th April 2013 edition noting local concerns over the closure states that a spokesman for Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust has said of Altham Meadows: “The recent dementia consultation confirmed that the preferred option was a single site 30 bed dementia unit.
“Altham Meadows is not a suitable option for a single site and will close.”
A number of cuts to health services in our area are being hotly debated. In February, the North Lancashire Clinical Commissioning Group began a consultation, conducted by independent researchers with some community groups, voluntary organisations, NHS staff, clinicians and members of the public to ask them about their views on local health services around the Morecambe Bay area.
One of the aims of changes to healthcare provision would seem to be to ensure that where services are relocated, although distance and travel conditions must be taken into consideration, the NHS will endeavour to ensure that your journey time should not exceed 60 minutes (40 minutes if you are travelling for haemodialysis or cancer treatment).