Doctors condemn elderly care cuts

Under threat: Oakwell at Bickington is one of 11 care centres under threat from county council cuts. Under threat: Oakwell at Bickington is one of 11 care centres under threat from county council cuts.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014
12:00 PM

Proposals to close day centres and residential homes are ‘a polar opposite’ of local health strategy, according to 22 North Devon GP surgeries.

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Under threat: Springfield Day Centre in Bideford.Under threat: Springfield Day Centre in Bideford.

NORTH Devon’s doctors have slammed proposals to close care homes and day centres for the elderly because of the potentially serious knock on effect for local health care.

They fear Devon County Council’s plans will not only damage the health of older people locally, but place even more strain on hospitals and emergency departments already at near capacity.

The concerns were raised in a letter to the North Devon Gazette by Dr Alison Stapley, Executive Partner at Bideford Medical Centre, on behalf of the North Devon General Practice Provider Group (NDGPPG) which represents 22 GP practices in the area. You can read the full letter below.

The letter says proposals to close centres and homes are ‘a polar opposite’ of Northern, Eastern and Western Devon Clinical Commissioning Group’s Care Closer to Home Strategy.

The doctors fear this will ‘lead to increased loneliness and isolation of our elderly population whose numbers are above the national average and increased stress for their carers’.

They said elderly residents also received personal care at day centres, such as assisted bathing, which helps such vulnerable patients avoid the risk of skin infections.

They questioned whether residents with personal care budgets would effectively be able to purchase private day care services, as what was on offer seemed to vary and the cost did not match the budgets, limiting the times the elderly could use the services or the amount of respite available for carers.

They also said it would be harder for carers to book respite care beds at commercial residential homes, leading to increased stress.

The GPs urged local people, MPs and the Commissioning Group to strongly oppose the plans: “We urge your readers to support our cause and appeal to DCC and the local MPs to find ways forward to support and care for our elderly population in North Devon.”

* Read on for Dr Stapley’s letter and the deep concerns raised by local GPs worried about what might happen if day care centres and residential homes are closed.

Dear Editor,

I write on behalf of North Devon General Practice Provider Group (NDGPPG) which represents 22 GP practices in North Devon, to express our concern over the closure of The Devon County Council Day Centres and Residential Homes. This seems to be a polar opposite to the Northern, Eastern and Western Devon Clinical Commissioning Group’s (NEW Devon CCG’s) Care Closer to Home Strategy.

The belief of the NDGPPG is that closure of the Day Centres will lead to increased loneliness and isolation of our elderly population whose numbers are above the national average and increased stress for their carers. Some of our elderly residents also receive personal care with assisted bathing at the day centres, removing this facility puts these vulnerable patients at risk of skin infections.

We are aware that our elderly patients will be in receipt of personal care budgets and that they may use these to purchase private day care services. Currently private provision seems to be variable throughout North Devon. Where available the cost of the provision does not seem to marry with the budgets given to patients. Therefore the amount of time the elderly can spend out of their homes with private providers and the respite time for carers will inevitably reduce. Concern was also expressed by the group that some of our elderly population will struggle to be able to manage their personal care budgets and may be left without provision.

With regard to the closure of residential homes it was acknowledged that we are in an area with many private homes, however, these are commercial enterprises and as such need to run at capacity and therefore having respite beds will be less attractive to them. Concern was expressed by carers within the Group that the ability for them to forward plan a holiday will be taken away from them as respite care for their relatives for a specific time frame will no longer be possible. This will in turn increase carers’ stress.

The NDGPPG would like to see a robust opposition to the plan for closure of these facilities from our CCG, our local MPs and the public. We believe closure is detrimental to the health of the elderly population of North Devon and could increase A&E attendances and admissions to hospitals which are already operating at or near full capacity.

We are unaware that a risk assessment has been done to examine the possible impact on primary and secondary health care that these closures could produce. We urge your readers to support our cause and appeal to DCC and the local MPs to find ways forward to support and care for our elderly population in North Devon.

Yours sincerely,

Dr Alison Stapley, Executive Partner at Bideford Medical Centre

For and on behalf of North Devon General Practice Provider Group

Member Practices of NDGPPG are:

Bideford Medical Centre Litchdon Medical Centre

Blake House Surgery Lynton Health Centre

Boutport Medical Centre Northam Health Centre

Bradworthy Surgery Queens Medical Centre

Brannam Medical Centre Beech House, Shebbear

Caen Medical Centre South Molton Health Centre

Castle Gardens Surgery Torrington Health Centre

East Street Surgery Wallingbrook Health Group

Fremington Medical Centre The Warwick Practice

Hartland Medical Practice The Waterside Practice

Holsworthy Medical Centre The Wooda Surgery

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