Dementia unit closure plans defended

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Health officials have defended plans to close a dementia treatment centre at Knaresborough’s Alexander House.

The site could see its inpatient services close under plans put forward by the district’s mental health trust.

Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Trust wants to run inpatient services from a £3.5 million purpose built unit at Malton Hospital but keep day services at the Knaresborough site.

The trust’s North Yorkshire chief Adele Coulthard spoke to the county’s Health Scrutiny Committee on Friday, April 20. She said there were no plans to close Alexander House, only to “redefine” its services and make better use of the building.

“Alexander House will not close. Services may differ, but they will continue to run. There is no proposal to reduce investment in community services in Harrogate, quite the reverse,” she said.

“The community teams are based at Alexander House, and the RRICE (Rapid Response and Intermediate Care) Team is based there. We are looking to make the memory management service for early diagnoses part of the services at Alexander House as well. This [the closure] is just about inpatient services.”

The plans drew criticism from the committee. County Coun John Blackie, who represents Upper Dales on North Yorkshire County Council, said a single North Yorkshire treatment centre based in Malton would make life difficult for families.

“From Hawes, Malton is 80 miles away. It’s a long way to travel and people don’t abandon their loved ones when they get dementia.”

After the meeting, chairman Coun Jim Clark said patients and their carers needed more information about plans for Alexander House.

“It’s early days but it is quite unsettling for those who use the service. We need more details on what is happening in the immediate future and in the long term.

“I think it is important that a formal consultation about Alexander House will be held – probably in the autumn.”

Plans for a the new building in Malton, which has been designed specifically for dementia sufferers, have already gone before Ryedale District Council and the first stage of the NHS process to approve the scheme has been agreed by the trust’s directors, Ms Coulthard said.

Patients currently in Malton’s Springwood Unit will move to Knaresborough while the new building is constructed, before moving into the new facility.

The “decant” is planned for 12 months from October, with extra staff being taken on to care for patients in Alexander House. The site is not ideal in terms of its “functional environment” as it has no “wander pathways” where dementia patients can walk without coming across closed doors, Ms Coulthard added.

Respite care might also stop at the Knaresborough site, which Ms Coulthard said is not suitable for providing the service.

“At Alexander House not a lot of people leave the house for day trips, to go and play bowls and so on,” she said.

“Respite care is about maintaining people’s social connections and cognitive capabilities. Alexander House does not have the appropriate stimulation.”