Anger is mounting across the town at the imminent closure of dementia day care at Stratfield House, part of Wellington Community Hospital. Local GP Dr Sally di Mambro joined forces with John Bailey, treasurer of the hospital’s League of Friends, to criticise the decision to town councillors.
“We’re very concerned at the Medical Centre about the impending closure,” said Dr di Mambro.”The communication from the medical agencies involved was very poor and there was no preparation for us.
“The carers of people with dementia are also our patients and the impact on them of withdrawing these services will be very serious. Some of them will have to leave their jobs and become unemployable if there is no day care for their loved ones.
“As a GP partnership we can say that Stratfield House has provided an excellent service in the town and we’ve had no tangible information about any replacement service we can offer.”
Mr Bailey also criticised NHS communications about the planned closure. “When it comes to asking the Friends to fund things they are on the phone very quickly,” he said. “When things get difficult they can’t communicate at all and I think it’s appalling. The Friends have raised over £500,000 for the town’s hospital over recent years and I think the community needs to be very concerned about what’s happening.
“I’m asking the people in charge to tell us now what provision is being made in Wellington to give respite for carers of people with advanced dementia.” Mr Bailey said that it was not lack of demand that was causing the number of users at Stratfield House to decrease so much as an NHS policy of reducing referrals so that the costs per patient inevitably rose.
Tracy Bateman, a staff member at Stratfield House, told councillors: “We’re here to fight the closure but no one seems to be listening. We offer a safe environment with flexible hours for our patients with advanced dementia. Closing the unit could create a crisis situation that would be terrible.”
Stephen Chandler, Director of Adult Social Services at Somerset County Council, told the meeting that the county’s decision to end its contract with Somerset NHS Partnership for dementia care lay behind the closure which he said was too expensive and used by too few patients.
“Stratfield House represents an old and outmoded method of support for dementia and is withering on the vine with fewer users. This is not just the case in Somerset, across the UK there is falling use of hospital day care. I also don’t accept the criticism that we have not been open and transparent but allowing this service to deteriorate e is not a credible option.”
There is a consultation meeting about the Stratfield House closure at Wellington Community Centre on Thursday November 15th at 3.45pm but at present it is unclear if it is open to the public.