Apologies for the length of this press release, but please do persevere to the end. I hope my anger comes across.
Iain Dale, Conservative Candidate for North Norfolk, today organised and chaired a meeting for relatives of Rebecca House patients to discuss their plans to campaign against its closure. The meeting was also attended by Norman Lamb MP and Labour candidate Phil Harris. Following this, Iain Dale and Norman Lamb accompanied the 30 or so relatives to a meeting with the Mental Health Trust at Rebecca House.
Iain says he was "shocked and dismayed" that no senior representative from the Mental Health Trust had bothered to attend this important meeting. He says: "I expected to see either Chief Executive Pat Holman or the Chairman Maggie Wheeler there, or at the very least Policy Director Kathy Chapman. I think a number of the relatives were quite insulted that they didn't turn up."
There was also a bid to gag Iain Dale and Norman Lamb, who were told they could not particiapte in the meeting, merely observe. The relatives made clear that they had asked both Dale and Lamb to be their voice and both participated fully in the proceedings. Iain says: "It is outrageous that they tried to gag us. Who do these people think they are? All we are doing is trying to protect the interests of the patients at Rebecca House and their relatives. I'm not going to be gagged by anyone."
Alison Leathers, the project manager for the Mental Health Trust then told the meeting that there will be a 12 week public consultation on their plans to close Rebecca House, Cygnet House and part of Ellacombe, at a stroke abolishing 100 beds and replacing them with a new 28 bed acute unit at the Julian Hospital in Norwich. At the moment 60 of these beds are in use. At the Julian there will be 20 full time beds with 8 for respite care. This means that some 40 patients, two thirds of those currently in NHS care, will be forced to find alternative accomodation. At the moment no such beds exist.
Iain says: "The authorities are putting the cart before the horse. They know the beds aren't out there so why proceed with these plans when they have no way of implementing them? They have given no thought at all yet to the need for respite care and how that can be provided and there is no way that dementia sufferers can be put in normal residential care homes, even if there were free beds, which there aren't."
Alison Leathers explained to the meeting that some patients would be transferred from Rebecca House to Hellesdon Hospital pending the building of the new Julian unit. This breaks a pledge she and Kathy Chapman made to Iain Dale in March where they specifically ruled out Hellesdon as an option. Iain says: "It is a disgrace that they have shifted their position on Hellesdon when they told me in March that it was not an appropriate setting for dementia care. Either I was misled or they knew all along this was what they intended to do. Either way it is a pretty shabby way for a public authority to behave and I will be asking Maggie Wheeler for a public apology.
Iain accused the Labour Government of creating continuing care criteria which "do not stand up to either clinical examonation or any judgement of common sense".
Rebecca House was only built 10 years ago, as a specialist dementia care unit. It's closure is described by Iain as a "criminal and negligent act which we should hold Dr John Reid personally responsible for".
Iain Dale and Norman Lamb committed themselves to campaigning for Rebecca House to remain open for specialist dementia care. Iain says: "If the Mental Health Trust abandon their responsibilites at Rebecca House we must see whether there are any other options, such as the Primary Care Trust taking it over, or for a private sector carer to opeate it. Whatever happens, North Norfolk cannot afford to lose such a wonderful facility.
In conclusion Iain comments: "I am angry - very angry that good and honest people have been treated in this way. The only thing they want is for their relatives to be cared for and not treated as statistics. The Mental Health Trust should examine their consciences. It's not too late for them to admit they are wrong and that Rebecca House should stay open."