Health bosses planning to shut dementia ward at Melrose hospital

The Borders General Hospital at Melrose.
The Borders General Hospital at Melrose.

Borders health chiefs have voted to axe nearly half the region’s acute dementia beds. 

The region’s integrated joint board, is a partnership between NHS Borders and Scottish Borders Council, plans on treating more people with dementia in the community rather than in a hospital ward. 

A report presented to a meeting of the joint board yesterday, August 14, asked board members to approve removing 12 of the region’s 26 dementia beds at the Borders General Hospital in Melrose.  

Board chief officer Robert McCulloch-Graham said: “The first opportunity is the transfer of patients currently being cared for in the acute wards of Cauldshiels and Melburn Lodge at the Borders General Hospital. 

“Provision at Cauldshiels is viewed as being unfit for purpose for dementia care. 

“The unit is currently operating significantly under capacity, with less than 50% of the beds across the two units currently being occupied. 

“Consequently, an opportunity has arisen to transform this service by closing the Cauldshiels ward and relocating patients to the homelier setting of Melburn Lodge. 

“The closure of Cauldshiels ward and the resetting of the model of care within Melburn Lodge will enable a significant improvement in quality of dementia care facilities, save significant annual revenue resources and avoid the need for substantial investment in the fabric of the Cauldshiels facility.”

Currently, Cauldshiels is used for more acute patients, and for assessment, and Melburn Lodge is a purpose-built facility used for longer stays. 

Closing Cauldshiels will save the board £812,202, but £338,000 of that will be ring-fenced for five new specialist beds should demand for beds increase unexpectedly. 

Kelso councillor Tom Weatherston told the meeting that the move marks a change of direction in dementia care, saying: “I welcome this. I feel it’s a huge step in the right direction.

“I’m aware of one family whose father was moved to a new facility where staff have had the new training, and they told me they can’t believe the improvement in their father.

“This may appear controversial to some, but sometimes you’ve got to stand up and be counted, and I think we should be doing that. I certainly will.”

Malcolm Dickson, a non-executive board member of NHS Borders, added: “I visited Cauldshiels recently and have seen the dedication of the staff there, but some of the staff there admit that it is the wrong place for some of those patients to be.”