Care of elderly to be revolutionised

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A WATERSHED in the care of the elderly in a Yorkshire city has been agreed as senior politicians warned that the biggest shake-up in the sector in half a century is vital to cope with soaring demand.

Members of York Council’s cabinet have backed plans which will see the private sector drafted in to help cope with the escalating demands for health services for the elderly.

The council has unveiled an ambitious long-term vision to meet the needs of the city’s ageing population, including bolstering dementia care and building a multi-million pound care village.

The authority’s cabinet has now agreed to plans to build developments on the existing sites of Fordlands and Haxby Hall care homes and a new location at Lowfields in the city’s Acomb district.

York Council’s cabinet member for health, housing and adult social services, Coun Tracey Simpson-Laing, admitted the plans had faced opposition, especially from union leaders concerned that care services are being taken out of the public sector.

But she added: “This decision marks a watershed in the care of the elderly in York. It is a bold step, but it is one we have had to take to ensure that facilities are fit for purpose and we are able to meet the growing demand for services. It has taken us the best part of a year to get to this stage, but we have moved along in a careful and considered manner to ensure that the process is as smooth as possible.”

The cabinet’s decision on Tuesday evening will mean the council will now fund, build and operate the new care home at Fordlands in Fulford and, in principle, operate the new care home at Haxby Hall.

A final decision on the Haxby Hall development will be made in the autumn of next year, and will be dependent on the council’s financial circumstances.

But due to the complexity of building and operating a care village, the cabinet has agreed to go out to tender to recruit a partner to fund, construct and operate the Lowfield development.

The council’s own in-house service would be able to compete for this work alongside providers from the private sector.

The two council-run care homes are expected to cost £3.7m each, while an estimated £6m will be needed for the 90-bed Lowfield scheme.

The decision to push ahead with the financial models to deliver the care homes represents a major landmark in the overarching strategy which was announced last summer.

Plans were unveiled in July last year for a city-wide review of the council’s residential care homes amid predictions the number of people aged over 65 is expected to increase by nearly a quarter in less than a decade.

The review represented the biggest overhaul of care services in York for half a century after the network of the existing facilities was built during the 1960s and 1970s.

A five-year vision has been drawn up to reduce the number of hospital and care home admissions across York. The council’s network of nine care homes - two of which closed in March - had cost about £7m to run annually and provided a total of 276 beds.

But 190 of the beds were for general care, with only 86 beds available for specialist care for people with conditions such as dementia.

There has been a major shift in the last decade in the level of need of people admitted to residential care. As people’s life expectancy has increased and they are able to stay at home longer, those admitted to residential care are often more physically frail.

The Yorkshire Post revealed in November that Coun Simpson-Laing had admitted the growing problem of dementia is one of the greatest challenges in the care of the elderly.

In North Yorkshire alone, it is estimated that almost 11,500 people are living with dementia, with 60 per cent of cases going undiagnosed. That figure is expected to rise by 39 per cent to nearly 16,000 sufferers by 2021.

email paul.jeeves@ypn.co.uk