Funding decision plunges care of dementia patients into doubt

ONE hundred dementia patients face an uncertain future after health chiefs in Yorkshire agreed plans to withdraw vital funding from two care homes.

The preliminary decision is likely to lead to the closure of the Birch Avenue home in Chapeltown, Sheffield, and the Woodland View home in Norton in the city, putting 115 jobs at risk. The homes rely on top-up funding worth 2.8m to cover the costs of running them, which are around double those at other units.

A board meeting of NHS Sheffield yesterday heard it could no longer afford to pay the premium.

The decision was taken in the face of opposition from staff and relatives of residents. A four-month consultation over the move will now be held before a final decision is made in June.

Interim NHS Sheffield chief executive Ian Atkinson said: "We listened to the proposals and the views of the public who came along to the meeting, which included relatives of care home residents and staff. The board also took into account letters and emails sent in before the meeting.

"We are very mindful that this is a distressing situation but we also have a duty to look carefully at all areas of NHS spending.

"Because we want to ensure we capture all views and any viable alternative suggestions, the board agreed to an extended consultation period of four months, rather than the regular three."

No closure will take place before next year until alternative arrangements are in place for patients which is likely to mean new provision of services in Sheffield to meet the shortfall.

Evidence suggests forced movements of care home residents – most of them over 65 and requiring long-term care – can damage their health.

Both homes are run by housing associations but staff are employed by the NHS.

It is estimated redundancy costs could come to a maximum of 2.5m although some redeployment is likely.

The funding decision came as union Unison said care workers working for private company the Hesley Group, which provides care for children and adults with autism in Doncaster and Barnsley, had voted to strike over the firm's plans which could see their wages cut by up to 3,000 a year.