Closure of Islands only dementia ward

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Confirmation that NHS Western Isles are to close the Clisham Ward at Western Isles Hospital, Stornoway has been blasted by a family member of a long time patient in the ward – which is the only dementia ward in the region.

Despite the Western Isles being home to 647 dementia sufferers , according to Alzheimer Scotland, NHS Western Isles have confirmed plans to close Clisham Ward - which they believe is ‘not the right place for people with dementia.’

A family member, who did not want to be named, contacted the Gazette this week to express their concern and anger at the decision to close the ward with no discussion or concern for islanders struggling with dementia.

They said: “We had heard rumours they were considering closing the ward but it was just runours until March when we were given a letter stating they hoped to close by the end of the month (March).

“There has been no transparency, no discussion, no communication and no accountability from NHS Western Isles on this.

“There is the capacity for 30 patients in the ward but numbers have been steadily declining and there are now seven patients. Patients are being moved to private care homes and the closure of another ward would be devastating for the community.

“The NHS has a responsibility to the ill.

“Why haven’t NHS Western Isles entered into discussions with us family members instead of dictating this and planning on moving everyone to homes?,” they continued.

“People don’t choose their illnesses and illnesses shouldn’t dictate that the NHS gives up on people and moves them on.

“My family member can’t walk, speak or even eat proper food and continues to have seizures, but they consider that social care and not medical care. If these patients are fit I would not like to see those who are not fit.”

NHS Western Isles confirmed their intention to close the ward stating: “The move of people with dementia from hospital facilities to more homely settings has been ongoing across Scotland for several years.

“We recognise that Clisham, whilst providing an excellent standard of care, is not the right place for people with dementia.

“We are therefore focussing, in conjunction with social care to provide high quality care in people’s own homes or other homely settings.

“This is in keeping with the national dementia strategy and is articulated in the Outer Hebrides Dementia Strategy.”

They continued: “Clisham Ward has been reducing the number of beds for some time as we have supported improved management of challenging behaviour that is often the precipitating factor for admission.

“We have increasingly recognised that the people being admitted could be more appropriately managed at home or in a non-hospital setting and we are striving to achieve the most suitable placement for each person based on individual assessment.

“The input of the new consultant psychologists and the Alzheimer’s Scotland nurse consultant in dementia has been invaluable in supporting and training health and care professionals.

“We anticipate that Clisham Ward will no longer be required as part of the new mental health services model.”

But the decision has been blasted by the family member who said: “It has made my blood boil, as it is so sad, so awful to see the possible withdrawal of such a vital service.

“A decision like this should not happen without consultation and the NHS are accountable to the public.

“I must stress the staff in the ward are amazing and are like a second family, fantastic, and the ward is brilliant, but this is about the Health Board and not the staff in any way.”

Western Isles MP Angus MacNeil has also sought further information on the plans to close the ward and he has already been in touch with NHS Western Isles.

He commented: “I have written to Gordon Jamieson, Chief Executive of NHS Western Isles, to seek clarity on any plan to close Clisham Ward in Western Isles Hospital.

“With a high level of dementia patients in the Western Isles, I am seeking reassurance from the board about future arrangements.

“The current ward regularly receives praise for the high quality specific care it provides.

“I hope NHS Western Isles will keep the public and particularly those who have family members affected by dementia well informed of any changes that are going ahead.”