‘We need full consultation over day centre closure’ councillors tell Minister

Councillors Robert Macintyre and Isobel Strong.
Councillors Robert Macintyre and Isobel Strong.

Two Bute councillors have written to the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport over the closure of Thomson Court’s day centre service.

Cllrs Robert Macintyre and Isobel Strong have sent a joint letter to Shona Robison MSP, expressing their concerns at how the proposal has been handled – and seeking assurances over full consultation.

The duo have the backing of local MSP, Michael Russell.

The councillors’ letter states: "We are reassured to read that that the care policy of the Scottish Government is robust in general terms and would like to thank you for the time afforded by your officials regarding the subject of my letter.

"For the particular case of Thomson Court, Rothesay, lsle of Bute; Bute is an island community of just over 6000 people where the age demographic will affect greatly the future care for the elderly strategies and this age demographic is of great importance in healthcare provision to the community of Bute in the longer term.

"Since our first letter we have been able to gain online access to the minutes of the Argyll and Bute Partnership meetings where the topic of Thomson Court was on the agenda.

"We have also been able to discuss further the disturbing situation with our local constituents.

"We understand the following to be the situation:

"Before the IJB made the decision that Thomson Court service would be stopped, there appears to have been no consultation with those in the community who would be affected by this proposed change in service. This appears to be in contravention to the Scottish Government's policy as covered on the Healthcare lmprovement Scotland website, in particular the "Our Voice" webpage. Following challenge to the IJB there has now been a form of words used by the IJB to commence consultation but it is a concern both to us and our constituents that this will be no more than lip service to what is a clear Scottish Government policy, a policy which has had significant resources made available, to ensure compliance, by the Scottish Government through Healthcare lmprovement Scotland so that the voices of the patient and public are heard in areas of service change.

"ln the minutes of IJB:

"There is no mention of any special care provision for the dementia patients who presently use the service provided at Thomson Court. There is a reference to a replacement befriender type of service. Befrienders are not qualified in the care of dementia patients and there are serious practical issues about finding general befrienders on an island community: willingness, calibre to be qualified, interested...

"There is no mention of medical opinion (qualified in the area of dementia care) being sought on how best to care for the dementia patients of today and for future patients.

"There is no mention of how the current access to the Thomson Court facility by dementia sufferers provides the much needed respite care and freedom from worry for relatives often spouses of similar age as well as extended family members. There is mentioned in the minutes of a saving of f 10k by removing this service and we assume this is f10k, over 3 years, being the plan timeline. An insignificant amount in the larger picture and a figure which will, given the extra services required, will not in my opinion be achieved as a net saving

"As you will know the Scottish Government's webpage on Health and Social Care carries a specific link for Scotland's National Dementia Strategy: Within the strategy document there are one or two rather compelling paragraphs and ! reproduce them below for expediency.

"Challenges:

"Over the next period of time there are three main challenges that we must address.

"First, we must offer care and support to people with dementia and their families and carers in a way which promotes wellbeing and quality of life, protects their rights and respects their humanity. This is a moral imperative and it is unacceptable that too often the experience of people does not meet this standard.

"Second, we must continue to improve services and support from when someone presents for diagnosis, and throughout the course of the illness, including the support needs of carers. This support must be truly person centred, and should understand care and support from their perspective, not the perspective of service managers or clinicians.

"Third, we must recognise that with increased life expectancy the challenge of providing high quality care and support to people with dementia and their carers will increase over time. We must embrace the process of redesign and transformation of services to ensure that we deliver services effectively and efficiently.

"We have worked on each of these challenges since 2007 with success, but there is still more to do.'

"We, and our constituents with whom we have discussed this in detail, fail to see that the potential closure of the day service offered by Thomson Court and its replacement by a non-qualified (nor trained) befriender service is in line with this stated strategy.

"What are our own and our constituents' expectation on you as Cabinet Secretary?

"Now that we have brought this detailed information to your attention we would like to ask that your officials ensure that appropriate and full consultation by IJB is made with Argyll and Bute Council regarding demographics, with NHS Highland and the Bute GP Practice in Rothesay regarding current and projected numbers of dementia sufferers within the community of the lsle of Bute, and with the relatives and carers of current users and potential users of Thomson Court about what it actually means to them and what would be the impact on them if this service is stopped.

"There will be a social element to this and an overall financial element to be considered. Already our local police play their part in assisting dementia suffers when they are found lost and isolated in the town of Rothesay. Dementia sufferers can often be seen waiting for relatives in the general area of Rothesay Police Station.

"We ask you for this because we feel that the IJB have not followed due procedure nor diligence in this regard and we have grave concerns that, at least according to statements within documents on their website, neither Argyll and Bute Council nor NHS Highland have any power of veto over decisions that the IJB make: we consider it imperative, therefore, that any decisions that IJB do make have been well researched regarding their social and economic impact and are appropriate for the community that the IJB serve and further, that they are fully aligned with the policies and strategies of the Scottish Government."