Fears persist over healthcare revamp

PLANS to close the Victoria Hospital Annexe in Rothesay, and to cut bed numbers to 13 at the nearby Victoria Hospital, have come in for renewed criticism from Bute’s community councillors this week.

NHS Highland’s plans to close the Annexe, which provides continuing elderly care, and to provide more care in the community to compensate, have been public knowledge for some months.

But persistent concerns about what the changes will mean for elderly people who are too ill to be cared for in a community setting are showing no sign of going away.

One member of Bute Community Council said this week she felt the island had been “badly let down” by both the NHS and Argyll and Bute Council over the strategic planning of future services for older people. Rosemary Laxton told BCC’s latest monthly meeting: “We have asked about the strategy behind this, and they couldn’t tell us.

“We are very exposed here on the island - we are going to have very few beds, and we’re now going to get more cuts on top. We should have had a proper strategy for older people’s services years ago.”

Argyll and Bute Council is currently carrying out a review of older people’s services throughout the local authority area - although, as we reported two weeks ago, that review has already placed a question mark over the future of the council’s own care homes.

And two of the island’s Argyll and Bute councillors told that BCC meeting they still had serious misgivings about the direction of the NHS redesign of the island’s health services.

Cllr Isobel Strong said: “One lady was so ill after hospital treatment that she could not go back home. The only place she could go was off the island.

“To me, that is not a choice. We have always tried to make sure there is a range of care for elderly people on the island.

“We have to have a range of services here. I take some reassurance from knowing that there are more nurses in the community now, but providing nursing care in an institutional situation, with other staff and support available, is very different to going out and caring for somebody in their own home.

“I know people aren’t entirely reassured that this is going to be adequate for the care of the elderly in the future, and I think people are right to have concerns.”

Cllr Len Scoullar added: “Isobel and I have always fought to try to change minds about the reduction to 13 beds, and we got nowhere. That wasn’t up for discussion.

“We thought that the community would maybe be left short with only 13 beds; I hope we’re wrong.”

The loss of beds resulting from the closure of the Annexe is to be accompanied by the provision of ten care beds in the island’s three sheltered housing complexes - Foley Court and Rothesay Court, which are run by Bield Housing Association, and Ferfadd Court, owned and operated by Argyll Community Housing Association.

BCC vice-chair Grace Strong, who serves, along with her fellow community councillor Jeanette McIntyre, on a committee overseeing the redesign of the island’s health services, told the meeting that although the refurbishment of the Victoria Hospital was due to be completed by the end of March, various safety checks meant it could be June before the facility was ready to be re-occupied by patients and staff temporarily based at the Annexe.

“We were told there was no way anything would be happening to the Annexe until there were sufficient beds in the Vic or in one of the progressive care homes,” Miss Strong said.

“Nobody was to worry that all of a sudden the island was just going to go down to 13 beds.

“I told them I want to ensure the patients are getting as equal if not better care once they go home as they would get in a hospital. I was assured that they would, and I questioned how.

“A lot of carers do not have the training, but because some of the trained staff are going into the community, there will be more visits from trained staff to patients’ homes than there would otherwise have been.

“We are really fighting our corner hard - none of us let them off with anything.”

A spokesman for NHS Highland’s Argyll and Bute community health partnership told The Buteman: “NHS Highland would like to reassure the community council and local residents in general that when the refurbished hospital fully reopens later in the spring, we are confident that there will have adequate beds to meet the projected demand.

“We would also like to highlight that a hospital is not the proper environment for an elderly person who no longer requires hospital treatment.

“That is why we have been working with our Argyll and Bute Council colleagues to provide local care in the community for our elderly residents that meets their needs in an appropriate environment.”