Dementia home closure opposition ignored

Crumhaugh House, Hawick
Crumhaugh House, Hawick

THE fate of a Hawick residential care home for dementia sufferers and the frail elderly was finally sealed on Thursday.

Crumhaugh House, which has 20 units will be phased out in the coming months and residents transferred to other institutionalised care or so-called extra care housing.

Surprisingly, there is no specific mention of the long-standing facility, in the town’s west end, in a press statement issued after Thursday’s meeting of the board of NHS Borders which proclaimed: “Dementia and community services within the Teviot area are set to be modernised to provide improved and person-centred health care.”

The decision by the board to approve the redesign of services in Teviot comes despite vehement opposition to the closure of Crumhaugh House, explicit in the changes, which was expressed at two public meetings in Hawick, most recently at this month’s gathering of the town’s community council.

At these forums, health board bosses admitted the closure would save their authority £1million, while stressing that £500,000 would be reinivested in the new services.

The NHS Borders statement confirmed that two proposals had been approved: to have all in-patient complex care for people with dementia at Melburn Lodge at the Borders General Hospital site and to reinvest resources incommunity and resource centre services; and to consolidate all community hospital in-patient provision in the Teviot locality at Hawick Community Hospital.

The statement claimed both proposals had been recommended as preferred options “following an extensive engagement and option appraisal process”.

“They reflect national and organisational priorities to move away from reliance on in-patient models of care and to extend access to services which can be provided while patients continue to be independent and living in their own homes and communities.”

The views expressed at the Hawick meetings have clearly failed to sway the board away from a model of service delivery already rolled out in the Peebles and Cheviot areas.

Fears for continuity of care for vulnerable patients at Crumhaugh House, the impact on families of increased travel and the likelihood that the prominent building would, like Hawick’s former Cottage Hospital, languish and become an eyesore, were all aired. Assurances were given that the dementia patients from Crumhaugh House would transfer to Melburn Lodge.

Reacting to the decision, Hawick and Denholm councillor Stuart Marshall said: “This is a body-blow for Hawick and, to my mind, it is purely an exercise by NHS Borders to help balance the books at the expense of many patients, families and staff.

“It would all be much more palatable if this building had become a liability beyond repair and the excellent level of service that was being provided at Crumhaugh was being called into question, but that simply isn’t the case.

“To hear that a much better, more up-to-date facility will provide a higher quality of service 20 miles or so down the road is quite ridiculous. It’s a real shame that families in Hawick will now be faced with the additional burden of having to meet travel costs to visit their loved ones.

“Yes, staff will be redeployed, but eventually those staff too will also be faced with travelling costs.

“The people that matter most in all of this are the patients, and it’s a damned disgrace that people living in and around Hawick are going to lose out because of this cost-cutting exercise.”

NHS Borders chief executive Calum Campbell told TheSouthern that non-financial, as well as financial, option appraisals had informed the Teviot redesign.

“The local benefits will be widespread,” said Mr Campbell after the board meeting. “It will also create the opportunity to explore with Scottish Borders Council (SBC) the possibility of joint use of buildings to create new provision such as extra care housing.”

Dr Sheena Macdonald, the board’s clinical chair for primary and community services, said of the decision: “For community services, this means we will have a new home-based rehabilitation service in Teviot for physiotherapy and occupational therapy and additional GP support for treatment which means people can remain in their homes for longer.

“This will also allow us to ensure our community-based inpatient services are provided equitably across the Borders.”

The redesign programme was welcomed by Dr Cliff Sharp, clinical chair for mental health services. “By reinvesting in improved models of care, this will, in effect, mean that modern dementia services are safe, effective and person-centred.

“There will be enhanced community services in the Borders; more flexible services across seven days; easier access to support for people with dementia and their carers; and better signposting to appropriate care and support.

“A new liaison service will also be expanded across the Borders; there will be increased staffing numbers and an improved skill mix at the special dementia inpatient unit at Melburn Lodge; and we are working with SBC to co-locate specialist dementia services to improve communication and joint working.”

A spokesperson for NHS Borders said the changes would be phased in over a number of months “ensuring the needs of individual patients and their carers continue to be met safely and appropriately”.