Wednesday, February 04, 2004


I issued this today.

North Norfolk Conservative Spokesman Iain Dale has slammed plans to run down three of Norfolk's specialist dementia care units for sufferers of Alzheimers. The three units at Rebecca House in North Walsham, Cygnet House in Long Stratton and the Ellacombe Unit in Norwich will all be affected within the next 18 months, with acute patients all being transferred to a central facility at Hellesdon Hospital on the outskirts of Norwich. Iain Dale has learned that last week the North Norfolk Mental Health Trust appointed a 'Project Manager' at a cost of more than £50,000 to manage the running down of the three units. Although less acute patients will remain at Rebecca House with reduced levels of nursing care, the facility will not take on any new patients and it is not clear if the other two facilities will remain open on the same basis. The future of Rebecca House is dependent on North Norfolk Primary Healthcare Trust gaining ownership of it and discussions are underway at the moment says PCT Chief Executive Diana Clark. Rebecca House and Signet House are purpose built, modern facilities, specially designed for the care of patients suffering from dementia. If patients do not get transferred to Hellesdon they will either remain at Rebecca House with a reduced level of nursing care or put into care homes who lack the specialist nursing staff to cope with them. Patients suffering from acute dementia need proper trained psychiatric nurses and these are only available in facilities such as Rebecca House. Patients in Rebecca House and the other facilities have been guaranteed an NHS bed for life. The units also take temporary patients in order to provide what is termed 'respite care' for their home carers. Under the new plans it is thought that Rebecca House would not take on any new patients and any 'respite care' patients would have to go to Hellesdon. If the plans go ahead relatives and friends of acute patients from North Norfolk face a potential round trip of 60 miles to visit. Staff at the facilities have been instructed by the Norfolk Mental Health Trust to say nothing to outside enquiries about the plans and there has been no formal consultation with carer groups. The reason given by the Trust for the move is its £1.8 million budget deficit. Iain Dale comments: "At first sight this decision is a scandal. I am appalled that the long term future of such an excellent unit as Rebecca House is under any sort of threat. The patients there need specialist care which only trained psychiatric nurses can provide. The Mental Health Trust appears to have made this decision with no consultation at all and is riding roughshod over the views of the carers, carers' groups and the staff in these facilities. I am today seeking assurances from North Norfolk Primary Care Trust and the Norfolk Mental Health Trust about the three facilities, and Rebecca House in particular as it affects primarily the people of North Norfolk.

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