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Concerns over dementia bed closures

PUBLISHED: 17:49 16 April 2009 | UPDATED: 08:57 06 July 2010

Concerns were expressed today about plans to close beds for people with dementia at the Julian Hospital in Norwich.

The original plans to close a ward of 18 beds have been scrapped because of growing numbers of people with the condition, but Norfolk and Waveney Mental Health Trust still wants to close nine to 12 of the beds, which are used for assessment.

Concerns were expressed today about plans to close beds for people with dementia at the Julian Hospital in Norwich.

The original plans to close a ward of 18 beds have been scrapped because of growing numbers of people with the condition, but Norfolk and Waveney Mental Health Trust still wants to close nine to 12 of the beds, which are used for assessment.

There are currently 58 beds in the hospital on Bowthorpe Road. Following the introduction of an intensive support team, which works with people in their own homes, 41 beds have been used on average. For a few days in January as many as 55 were in use, although that included two or three patients from Waveney moved there because of refurbishment.

Ian Young, city locality manager for the mental health trust, told today's Norfolk health scrutiny meeting that the intensive support team, which is a 12-strong team of different types of staff, had been working well. But it has been more successful at keeping people with mental illness such as psychosis or anxiety out of hospital, and less effective for those with severe dementia.

He said: “The number of people with dementia in the county is increasing. We need to respond in new and innovative ways.”

Committee chairman Janice Eells said: “I personally think there is a great deal of work to be done, and I am not convinced that you have covered all the aspects that need to be covered.”

North Norfolk councillor Penny Bevan-Jones said: “You must keep open that extra ward. It is vital to do that.”

Patient representative Tina Walton said: “We need to have that safety net there. We would not want to see more than half the ward closed. I think it is too early to make a decision about whether they should or shouldn't shut beds.”

Pat Holman, chief executive of the mental health trust, said: “Six beds, or 20 beds, won't work with a population of 13,000. Thirteen thousand requires different ways of working. I agree with you that there is a lot of work to be done. GPs are the first port of call and we need to provide a good programme of education to GPs so they can identify dementia. Just holding beds open is not going to provide the service that the people of Norfolk deserve and require.”

The committee agreed to look at the issue again in six months to monitor progress.

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