Protest and petition fail to halt dementia ward closure plans

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Argyll’s sole inpatient ward for dementia patients remains under threat after bosses deferred a decision on its future.

Ignoring heavy rain outside Argyll and Bute Council headquarters at Kilmory last Wednesday (January 29), protesters gathered to voice their opinion that Mid Argyll Hospital’s Knapdale Ward should be kept open and enhanced for the future.

Made up of members of the public, relatives of dementia sufferers, nursing and medical professionals and trade union UNISON representatives, the protesters made their feelings known to members of the Argyll and Bute Integration Joint Board (IJB) – the group overseeing health and social care in the region – ahead of the meeting.

In the end the IJB decided to begin a formal public consultation before meeting on March 25 to ‘make a decision’ on the future of the facility.

The future of Knapdale Ward has hung in the balance since managers at Argyll and Bute Health and Social Care Partnership (HSCP) closed the ward to new admissions in February 2018.

Since then a Dementia Redesign Group within the HSCP has been looking at the future of care for dementia sufferers in Argyll and Bute.

But staff and UNISON have slammed bosses over a lack of consultation about plans for the unit.

And the brother of one Knapdale Ward inpatient only stumbled across the closure plans the weekend before the meeting. He claims he was never consulted.

Four options have been considered by the Dementia Redesign Group, with the preferred option being to move to an enhanced community care model, with inpatient services provided ‘out of area’. Knapdale inpatient ward would be closed.

The ‘redesign’ would save an estimated £200,000 within Argyll and Bute – but if 10 patients per annum require inpatient care, the additional payment to NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde would potentially be £196,000, according to HSCP figures.

Campaigners prefer another identified alternative  – ‘Option 4 – which would develop Knapdale ward to provide inpatient assessment/respite/day care/outpatients/information hub and a community team base along with the development of enhanced community teams.

UNISON also claims that staff calls for improvements to the ward have been ignored by HSCP bosses.

Ahead of Wednesday’s meeting, a 3,000-signature petition entitled ‘Save Knapdale Ward’ was handed to IJB chairman Kieron Green by UNISON regional organiser Simon MacFarlane.

Mid Argyll councillor Dougie Philand, a former mental health nurse, said: ‘This proposal will mean that those who suffer from and care for people with this horrendous illness will have to travel out of Argyll for inpatient care.

‘Surely [this is] inhumane.’

Following the meeting Joanna Macdonald, chief officer for Argyll and Bute HSCP, said: ‘I would like to thank the Dementia Services Review Group for all their work in reviewing dementia services within Argyll and Bute and for bringing the proposal for an Enhanced Community Team model to the Integration Joint Board.

‘This investment in community services would allow many more people living with dementia to be supported to live longer in their own homes and communities across the whole of Argyll and Bute. It will also allow us to build up our local dementia teams and provide the appropriate clinical expertise locally.

‘We will now be carrying out a full consultation on the proposal with a further report submitted to the IJB on the outcome of this consultation at its next meeting on March 25. As part of this consultation we will carry out engagement with the public, staff, families of people with dementia and all other interested stakeholders.’