Could closure of Mid Argyll’s dementia ward be back on the table?

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The axe is again hanging over the dementia inpatient ward within Mid Argyll Hospital, while senior staff deal with budget gaps and staff shortages.

Little over a year after health bosses bowed to public pressure over plans to close the Knapdale dementia ward as part of a raft of cuts to bridge a £13 million funding gap for 2018/19, there were indications this week that closure of the facility is again on the table.

Knapdale Ward has been closed to new admissions since 2018 due to problems recruiting suitably qualified staff.

As rumours circulated this week that the Knapdale Ward could be closed by the end of July, an Argyll and Bute Health and Social Care Partnership (HSCP) spokesman said: ‘Due to ongoing issues in sourcing Registered Mental Health Nurses to staff the elderly dementia assessment unit (Knapdale Ward) within Mid Argyll Hospital, the ward remains closed to new admissions.

‘This decision was taken for patient safety reasons and ensures that, with the limited number of staff currently available, we can continue to provide appropriate care for patients in Knapdale Ward.

‘Over the last few months, a working group has been considering options available for the future provision of dementia care services. The model of care for dementia patients has been changing for some time, with more support and services provided in the community to allow more patients to be cared for at home and in their community.

‘The working group is expected to report with recommendations later this year.’

He continued: ‘Our main priority continues to be the safety and care of our patients. Argyll and Bute HSCP senior leadership team is meeting this week and will explore the options available to ensure we can continue to provide services locally.’

Mid Argyll councillor and retired mental health nurse Dougie Philand expressed concern over the consequences of any closure.

He said: ‘While I support community care, we still require assessment of severely demented older people and this will be done outside the [Mid Argyll] area if the ward closes.’

In a letter to Donald Watt, NHS adult services locality manager for Mid Argyll, Councillor Philand asked whether trained staff could be utilised on a temporary basis to assist with staff shortages.

He wrote: ‘This is not an unusual practice and I have seen this in other areas of Scotland.’

Unison representative Peter Laing expressed concern for the future of staff, adding that he would be speaking to councillors to discuss what can be done to save the ward.

Mr Laing said: ‘The service provided by Knapdale Ward is what is required to properly care for dementia patients. 24/7 care is what people pay their taxes for, so why should they and their loved ones not continue to receive this?

‘The public deserves better.’