Health bosses have put dementia and mental health care for the elderly at the top of the agenda as part of controversial plans to halve hospital beds in the Harrogate district.
The Harrogate and Rural District Clinical Commissioning Group, NHS North Yorkshire and York and Tees Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust (TEWV) are proposing to close Knaresborough’s Alexander House and cut bed numbers at Harrogate District Hospital’s Rowan Ward.
The shake-up – which aims to save cash and improve home care services – comes at a time when the number of elderly people in the area is predicted to rise significantly.
Dr Pratibha Nirodi, a TEWV respresentative, said: “Moving someone with dementia from their nursing or residential home into hospital can be extremely stressful and confusing and can have a detrimental impact on their longer term wellbeing.
“By providing specialist support and advice we can help many more patients remain at home and have a better quality of life.”
Councillors are set to discuss a report prepared by health bosses at the council’s overview and scrutiny commission on January 8, where they will hear that Harrogate and the rural district has a population of more than 158,000 with 20 per cent over 65 – compared with the national average of 16 per cent.
It is estimated the figure will increase further to 23 per cent in 2020 and 28 per cent in 2030.
Under the proposals, which are currently out to public consultation across the district, bed numbers would be reduced from 32 to 16 and these would all be provided at the Rowan Ward.
Alexander House would be used as a community resource centre with a memory clinic and other dementia services.
Many of the patients housed at the Knaresborough care unit were transferred from The Orchard in Ripon after its permanent closure in 2008.
A petition to save the Knaresborough service the last time changes were proposed in 2006 was backed by more than 9,000 people.
Health bosses argue beds are still under-used and unnecessary money is being pumped into services at Alexander House.
A report prepared by NHS bosses said: “It is important that we make the best use of our resources to meet the needs of an increasing and ageing population.
“We want to provide services which help them stay in their own home for longer, or which maximise independence. By saving money on inpatient services we will be able to protect and invest in our community services.”
But at public meetings across the district, councillors and members of the public greeted the proposals with outrage.
At a public meeting at Ripon town hall Coun Pauline McHardy said the proposals will prove “unsettling” for carers who may become overburdened.
Former GP’s receptionist Pam Godsell said at a meeting in Knaresborough that she “would hate to see any facilities disappear”.
Public consultations will continue until January 21. A survey is available at: www.harrogateandruraldistrictccg.nhs.uk/HaRD/GettingInvolved.htm