Argyll trade union protest planned against ‘inhumane’ unit closure

UNISON logoUNISON, the trade union, has slammed health bosses over a lack of consultation with staff over the future of Lochgilphead’s only specialist dementia unit.

Plans to close Mid Argyll Hospital’s Knapdale ward have been described by a councillor as ‘inhumane’.

Trade union UNISON plans to lead a public protest against the closure plans ahead of a meeting of the group overseeing health and social care in Argyll – the Integration Joint Board (IJB) – on Wednesday January 29.

A paper will be presented to IJB members proposing the closure of Knapdale inpatient dementia assessment ward – despite the fact that, according to UNISON, these has been ‘no meaningful consultation with staff or UNISON on this proposal and massive public opposition as evidenced by the over 2,000 signatories to our online petition’.

The Save Knapdale Ward online petition by UNISON Highland Healthcare had gathered more than 2,400 signatures by Monday January 27.

UNISON officials are calling on all concerned members of the public, relatives of current and former patients and staff join the protest at 12.30pm on Wednesday January 29 at Argyll and Bute Council headquarters, Kilmory.

Four options have been considered by a dementia services review group, with the preferred option being to move to a community care model, with inpatient services provided ‘out of area’. Knapdale ward would be ‘decommissioned’.

The ‘redesign’ would save an estimated £200,000 within Argyll and Bute – but if 10 patients per annum require inpatient care, the additional payment to NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde would potentially be £196,000.

All this comes in the middle of a new campaign in West Dunbartonshire to introduce a service to help people suffering from mental illness. Lochgilphead Hospital provided the mental health unit for people from Dumbarton, Vale of Leven and Helensburgh until the Christie Unit was built at Vale of Leven Hospital. That unit is now closed and the service is provided at Gartnavel Royal Hospital in Glasgow, which is the most likely location for any new in-patient care for Argyll residents.

UNISON prefers another identified option which would develop Knapdale ward to provide inpatient assessment/respite/day care/outpatients/information hub and a community team base along with the development of enhanced community teams.

UNISON claims that staff calls for interim improvements to the ward have been ignored by Argyll and Bute Health and Social Care Partnership, including the installation of dementia-friendly flooring; fitting out of a sensory room and resources to fund an improved activities programme; dementia appropriate toilet fittings; a proper sitting room with soft and period furnishings; more homely decor throughout; the filling of 3.5 RMN vacancies; and the reopening of the ward.

Mid Argyll councillor Dougie Philand, a former mental health nurse, said: ‘This proposal will mean that those who suffer from and care for people with this horrendous illness will have to travel out of Argyll for inpatient care.

‘Surely [this is] inhumane.’

The Dementia Services Redesign paper to be tabled at Wednesday’s IJB meeting concludes: ‘The enhanced community dementia team emerged as the most appropriate service for the future of dementia care in Argyll and Bute. This genuinely shifts the model of care to supporting adults with dementia within their own localities. However this needs embedded within developing pathways.

‘It is acknowledged that more detail is required on the model and this will be developed by the Dementia Services Redesign Group.’

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