Patients' families 'in the dark' as care home firm axes dementia units

Families fear their loved ones will end up back in locked hospital wards as lifeline service set to be axed.

Residents at Lanarkshire’s only specialist dementia units face being moved out after the care home provider announced it is to close the service.

Hatton Lea Care Home in Bellshill announced in March the facilities would close within six months after care provider HC-One ended its contract with the health board.

HC-One’s Milnwood, Mossend and Orbiston dementia units in Bellshill provide care to 40 residents, some of whom have been there for more than a decade. 

Families of those staying at Hatton Lea Care Home say they have had to fight for answers over what happens next.

‘We’re fumbling in the dark’

Alexa Hope say families have been 'fumbling in the dark' for answers

Alexa Hope’s husband Steven, 67, is a resident at the care home.

She told STV News: “I thought he was there to stay because he has severe behavioural problems.

“People need to be prepared for this – emotionally and financially and we’re fumbling in the dark.

“These are vulnerable individuals who need robust public care.”

Unable to find alternative premises, NHS Lanarkshire is now preparing a unit at Udston hospital in Hamilton.

The health service said they have been in regular contact with families, who have been invited to view the facility this month.

But relatives are worried it will be rushed and unfit for purpose.

‘We’ve had to fight for information’

Brian Connelly recalls seeing his wife 'doped up to the hilt' in Monklands hospital

For Brian Connelly – the prospect of another hospital setting is bringing back unwanted memories of his wife’s time at Monklands.

He said: “When I went to the unit on the day she was admitted, I found out it was in the basement. I was told I could visit for 30 minutes every three days.

“I went back and I didn’t recognise her. Doped up to the hilt. Distressed looking. And I felt the environment was controlling the patients instead of helping the patients.

“We’ve had to fight for every single bit of information. We’ve had nothing in writing to explain the set-up of the unit.”

NHS Lanarkshire says families will be invited to visit the new specialist base at Udston this month if the multi-disciplinary teams assessing patients deem that to be the right move for them.

But some are being told their relatives no longer require that level of clinical care.

‘It will be a vicious circle’

Hazel Cruttenden fears vulnerable residents will face a 'vicious circle'

Hazel Cruttenden”s 79-year-old husband Timothy is a resident at Hatton Lea and has mixed dementia.

She said: “The problem that I’ve got is that they say my husband can go into mainstream care – you still need to find a care home willing to take someone with his background.

“People in Udston will be reassessed every three months – it could be less than that – then he could be moved on, it’ll be a vicious circle.

“I was told that would be his last move. You hope they will settle and things will be fine. “

Alzheimer Scotland says this situation is symptomatic of a national problem.

The charity’s chief James Pearson said: “We need to transform our specialist dementia care units we have to have well-designed, properly staffed, skilled therapeutic environments to care for people with some of the most complex needs.

Alzheimer Scotland chief James Pearson

“We need an assessment process that is much broader than that narrow question of whether your needs can be met in a hospital environment or elsewhere.

“There are plans to adapt an existing building but it is unlikely to be ready in time.”

The Scottish Government says it’s committed to supporting those living with dementia.

These families have been reassured the facilities at Hatton Lea will not close until every resident has somewhere to go.

A University Health & Social Care North Lanarkshire spokesperson said: “Our overriding priority is ensuring the continued safety, minimising distress and supporting our patients and their families/carers through this process.

“This decision to stop running the HBCCC service at Hatton Lea was not the choice of University Health & Social Care North Lanarkshire.

“However, a multi-disciplinary team has worked extremely hard to carry out a full review of each patient’s care during the notice period we are working to.

“We have been in regular contact with families/carers throughout to keep them informed of progress through a series of letters and have offered individual meetings for families/carers with senior staff throughout this process.

“Social work staff are working with families to, where appropriate, identify the care home that best meets each patient’s individual needs and ensure all benefit entitlements are in place for each patient.

“For patients who are remaining in the HBCCC service, we have contacted their families/carers to organise visits to the new base this month. This will provide an opportunity for them to familiarise themselves with the hospital, its surroundings and get involved in the decoration of the base.”

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