Fears that extra pressure will be put on carers and patients will have to foot respite bills if specialist dementia care units are closed were raised at a public meeting in Ripon this week.
Plans to close Knaresborough’s Alexander House – which provides inpatient and respite care for people suffering with dementia – were met with outrage from councillors present at a health trust consultation held at Ripon town hall on Tuesday, November 13.
Many of the patients housed at the Knaresborough care unit were transferred from The Orchard in Ripon after its permanent closure in 2008.
Ripon City Coun Pauline McHardy, who worked as nurse for 39 years, said: “Carers are being abused here. I looked after my mother for 12 years and being a carer is a huge commitment. If the care is coming from a young person, their life could be ruined if they are not able to work for their future.”
Coun McHardy added: “These proposals will be unsettling for carers. Carers will be frightened.”
Littlethorpe parish Coun Roly Curtis reiterated fears that providing respite care at home will become an unmanageable burden.
“I think carers are getting a tough deal,” he said. “Carers can be looking after someone for years and years. When it gets too difficult, respite homes allow the carer to have a break and then carry on. That’s a fatal flaw in what we have heard today.”
Health bosses at the meeting defended the plans, arguing that social services will be at hand to help patients who do not have access to a carer.
But if a patient has more than £23,000 of personal funds, they will have to pay for private care rather than rely on social services.
Dr Pratibha Nirodi said: “We have a limited budget and we have to work the best we can with the pot of money we have.
“Respite care will be available, but done on a personalised social services budget basis.
“A hospital is not a good or safe place for someone with dementia. We need to look at making sure they are moved home as soon as possible.”
Coun McHardy responded: “It’s always about cuts to patient services. You can flower it up but that’s what you are doing.”
Public consultation will continue until January 21, 2013, with meetings at St Mark’s Church and St Robert’s Centre in Harrogate. For more information call 01423 859623 or visit www.tewv.nhs.co.uk