Thursday 4 December 2014

Care Home closures - thinking it through?

One feature of Carmarthenshire Council's Social Care policy has been to close all the council run homes for the elderly. The shift has been to support independent living and to create Extra Care Homes in Llanelli, Carmarthens and Ammanford. These closures have been highly controversial and whereas supported independent living in their own home would always be preferable for the elderly person, it is not always practical, appropriate nor possible.

With a rising elderly population in Carmarthenshire, the demand for Elderly Mentally Infirm (EMI) places, essentially people with dementia, is also rising. Questions have been raised in the past regarding the suitability and capacity of these Extra Care Schemes, the units are small bungalows or tiny apartments designed for frail elderly people.  They are looked after by private carers, possibly on zero hour contracts, on 24 hour call. Each scheme has a small specialised unit for dementia patients.

In the Ammanford area the closure of the two council run homes, Glanmorlais and Tegfan is well underway but serious concerns were raised at a recent scrutiny meeting. The availablilty of EMI beds is at capacity with the projected needs having been based on 2019/10 figures.

Demand was accelerating at a far quicker pace and it was suggested that the closures had not been properly thought through and had been based on out of date figures; it was highly unlikely that the new scheme would provide adequate capacity for EMI patients. It was suggested that one of the care homes could be retained for specialist EMI care.

Unfortunately the head of service didn't have any answers and needed time to reflect. A proposal for the committee to visit the two homes was rejected as it might give residents and their families the idea that their care home is to be saved after all. In the end it was decided that instead of sending a busload, that one Member from each political group, accompanied by the Director of Social Care and the local member visit the homes.

The problems will only be made worse over the next three years as elderly care services are cut by over £3m. Included in that figure is a 'saving' of £200,000 through a 'service review and renegotiation of contracts' for the Extra Care schemes themselves so even these new arrangements are facing reductions before they've got off the ground.
Shortsighted, short term 'savings' such as this are likely to create a disaster of the council's own making.

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