Bed cuts blow for dementia families

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Mental health workers and carers have hit out at plans to cut the number of beds available for dementia patients in the Lancaster district.

Families of dementia sufferers also reacted angrily to suggestions that new technology could bridge the distance gap if patients are sent to a new unit in Blackpool saying: “You can’t hold hands with an iPad”.

Mental health service provider Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust is proposing two options as part of streamlining measures, which would see the closure of the Altham Meadows Assessment Unit in Morecambe.

One option is to spend £11m on community services in Lancashire, plus £4m on a new 30 bed specialist site in Blackpool. Community services would include four or five specialist nurses at the Royal Lancaster Infirmary, the expansion of an Intermediate Support Team in Lancaster, and a nursing home liaison service, to be introduced in June. The other option is to spend less on community services, but introduce specialist hospital services in Blackburn as well. The trust said it wanted to keep patients at home for as long as possible, as research showed that this was best for patients.

There were 456 new cases of dementia in the Lancaster district in 2012, with 1,985 in total diagnosed with dementia. Of these, 14 were admitted to beds, compared to 233 in Lancashire.

At a public meeting at Lancaster Town Hall on Friday, people expressed concern about distances and travelling times, and the worry that beds would only be provided as a last resort.

One carer said: “The family is going to be on its knees before there is an admission now, so at the very least we could provide a good quality ‘Rolls Royce’ transport system for them.”

The consultation period runs until February 25. To give your views contact 01524 282128 or log on to www.lancashirementalhealth.co.uk