Friday, 17 May 2013

Lancaster Pensioners' Group condemns NHS dementia proposals, calls public meetings.

Lancaster District Pensioners' Campaign Group will be meeting again this Wednesday 22 May 2013 at 1pm in Room 2 of the Lancaster Friends Meeting House to discuss local and national issues affecting seniors. A further Public Meeting is planned for 12 June (see below).

The group's recent campaign seeking a unification of health and social care under a single, accountable, statutory body has clearly been heard by government, judging from recent reports that the government plans to join them up by 2018 and come up with a system that would stop people being passed around between doctors in hospitals and community services - and getting lost in the gaps between. The group plans to take an active role in campaigning for the new service to be realistic, effective and adequately staffed and funded.

Out of Sight...
However NHS proposals to move dementia care and elderly mental health services out of the area to a central Lancashire unit and to shut down the Altham Meadows Dementia Care Centre in Morecambe are a very grave concern. While some might argue that Altham Meadows is not 'ideal', the same argument could be used for practically every care facility in the UK. Shipping our community members to centralised care laagers far away and out of sight if they become psychologically vulnerable  is not the answer.

Familiar is best
If diagnosed and treated early, the progress of dementia can be slowed, enabling people to continue living safely independently at home for more years, which we all largely much prefer, making life better all round for everyone involved and saving a fortune in care costs. Local networks of care are better at identifying the earlier symptoms - and local services increase the chances of early referral. And there's a lot more to it than medication. Familiar environments and trusted faces are crucial and unfamiliar stress can make symptoms much worse very quickly. Travel can be difficult and daunting for frail elderly people and for their family and similarly-fixed friends to visit, and assessment by strangers in a strange environment far from the familiar is practically meaningless.

NHS proposals not backed by budgets?
LDPCG told us:  "In our response to the Lancashire Care NHS Trust ‘consulting’  local people via their document “Working together to improve specialist dementia care services in Lancashire”, whilst we welcomed proposals to improve dementia care services in the home and community, lack of additional finance meant it was incompatible with their proposed options.

"The Trust asked people to choose between two options (one centralised unit or two half-units) in their 'consultations’, when in fact these are not options at all.  We pointed out that the problems created for carers and/or relatives having to travel from North Lancashire to Blackpool or Blackburn (especially for those reliant on public transport) were not acceptable, in other words, not an ‘option’ at all.

Public Meeting in June
"At our Organising Committee meeting on 24th April, as part of our support for improved dementia services in Lancashire, we decided to launch a campaign to defend Altham Meadows.  We will host a public meeting on Wednesday 12th June, 6.30pm, St Martins Church Centre, Braddon Close, Westgate, Morecambe, LA4 4UZ.  We will also organise a petition, lobby our MP’s and local councillors and make representations to the Lancashire Care NHS Trust to keep Altham Meadow Dementia Centre in Morecambe open."

Lancashire County Councillor
Lancaster South East
Christine Henig
'Consultation 'a hollow affair'
Lancaster City Council has opposed the closure of the Altham Meadows Centre (see previous story 'Councillors back Altham Meadows as NHS Lancashire plans to refocus dementia care') and, prior to her election, retired social worker and new Labour County Councillor Chris Henig commented on our blog:

"(1) The recent 'consultation' was a hollow affair. It was conducted after the Trust had narrowed down their course of action to two options**. I completed their online questionnaire and because I didn't tick either Option A or Option B, they put me in the 'don't know category', i.e. there was no way of objecting to the two options. I was certainly not the only person who did this but if you add the percentages that they have published it adds up to 100 per cent

"(2) The concerns are not only about residential beds for dementia patients but also residential beds for older mental health patients. I understand that at the moment people are being sent far and wide because there are currently no beds available for them;

"(3) There is historical evidence that having a unit within a community setting is by far preferable to a site that is more remote. Relatives are visiting on a daily basis at Altham Meadows and this is an essential element in the care of their loved ones with dementia

"(4) Questions need to be asked about the existing PFIs attached to the Altham Meadows Unit. My understanding is that it still has 15 years to run. Was this also true of the other local Units that have already been closed?

"** At the public meeting organised on March 20th 2013 by the Lancaster District Pensioners' Campaign Group, it was clear that very few people had been approached in the earlier stages of the 'consultation' process. I have received several phone calls from carers who read the two letters I have had published over the past eight months in the Lancaster Guardian. They are appalled by the situation that may be faced by carers - and their loved ones with dementia - in the future.

"I do hope that local councillors will press on with this issue on behalf of local people. A debate and a letter from our Chief Executive may not be enough to challenge what is happening to our local services."

E-petition to keep pensioner benefits 
LDPG are also backing an e-petition to to parliament asking for the protection of universal pensioner benefits such as winter fuel allowance, free bus pass, TV licences for the over 75s and prescriptions for older people.
You can find it at: http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/49599.

To contact the LDPCG telephone: 01524 61585 or email: mjnlancs@yahoo.co.uk.

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