Marching for dementia care in Argyll

Campaigners make their views known ahead of January's IJB meeting
Campaigners made their views known ahead of January's IJB meeting

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A march and rally will be held in Lochgilphead later this month as the region’s only specialist inpatient dementia assessment unit faces closure.

Behind the protest is trade union UNISON, which will hold the march and rally on Saturday March 21 to save Knapdale Ward, situated in Mid Argyll Hospital.

The body governing health and social care in the area, Argyll and Bute Integration Joint Board (IJB)is set to make a decision on the ward’s future at its next meeting on March 25.

On January 29 the IJB gave the go-ahead for an alternative model of dementia care which would involve enhanced community dementia care teams, with patients being cared for in a home setting for as long as possible. For more severe cases, dementia sufferers would be assessed and looked after in facilities in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde NHS area.

Knapdale Ward would be closed.

A public consultation exercise was announced on February 24 by health bosses, involving three public meetings in Lochgilphead ( March 10, Baptist Church Hall); Oban (March 11, Oban Fire Station); and Dunoon (March 12, Queen’s Hall).

UNISON is urging the people of Argyll and Bute to participate in the consultation and to argue in favour of their proposed ‘option four’ – the development of an enhanced community team alongside the upgrading of Knapdale Ward to provide inpatient assessment along with respite, day care, outpatient services, an information hub and a base for the enhanced community teams.

Dawn Macdonald, UNISON NHS Highland convenor for Argyll and Bute, said: ‘It is a sad day when finance comes before patient care. Option four, for me, is truly patient-centred and will support keeping our loved ones with dementia who need hospital care, for however long, in our community. Not miles and hours away from family and friends.’

Belinda Braithwaite, whose husband was cared for on Knapdale Ward for almost four years at the end of his life, added: ‘Undoubtedly, the best place for most of us to be is at home; the provision of planned respite, day care, home carers and emergency respite can be a lifeline as families, often elderly themselves, manage increasing issues, as best they can at home.

‘There is a relentlessness in caring for a loved one with dementia, all day, every day, adapting to the “new normal” as the disease progresses.

‘Some dementia patients – a minority, but in human rights terms, a number for consideration – develop more complex needs such as aggressive outbursts, delusions and hallucinations – some of which can be ameliorated with medication. Thus, some patients will need specialist in-patient care either short or long term. My husband was cared for with skill, dignity and compassion on Knapdale, 12 miles from home and I was able to visit daily.’

She continued: ‘Currently, Mid Argyll and Kintyre and the Islands have no day care provision, no specialist dementia care home provision, limited respite provision and no ‘very sheltered’ housing. And if the IJB goes ahead we will have no specialist in-patient provision either.

Their Community Dementia Team proposal does not address the need for infrastructure. This is a retrograde step.’

‘More than 3,000 people have signed a petition supporting the Argyll and Bute HSCP retaining Knapdale Ward,’ said Simon Macfarlane, UNISON regional organiser.

‘We are calling on people to go along to the consultation and argue for the retention of inpatient services and the enhanced community service which our purposed option four represents. People should also contact their councillors and MSP to call on them to make representations to the IJB to save Knapdale Ward.’

The Save Knapdale Ward march and rally will be held on on Saturday March 21. The plan is to assemble from 10.30am outside the Comraich Centre (Old Succoth Ward – Argyll and Bute Hospital), Blarbuie Road, Lochgilphead and march from there at 11am through the town to a rally on Lochgilphead front


Protesters ignore atrocious weather to make their point at the last IJB meeting on January 29. 51_a05KnapdaleWardProtest01