CAMPAIGNERS have made a desperate plea to stop vital beds needed for multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s sufferers being slashed.
The Lanfine Unit, based at Astley Ainslie Hospital, faces having inpatient beds reduced from 18 to just ten under cost-cutting NHS Lothian plans.
Outraged patients and carers fear the cutbacks will harm vital care and respite services for sufferers of progressive neurological disorders (PNDs).
The Lanfine Service Users’ Forum said the number of beds was as high as 33 only five years ago and described the latest proposed reduction as a “huge blow”.
NHS bosses have said they will be providing an outreach team to create more “community-based services”. However Robert MacPherson, 67, the forum spokesman, said nothing can make up for the lost beds.
He was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis 19 years ago and has attended the unit for the last ten from his Edinburgh home – finding the treatment there invaluable.
He said: “Losing Lanfine will seriously affect not only service users who depend on regular treatment, but also mean increasing stress levels among carers. For carers who are already struggling to cope, it means the additional stress of having to search for alternate respite facilities.
“This is a huge blow, at a time when an increasing number of service users and carers need this sort of respite.”
Gill McMillan, 63, a carer for her 60-year-old sister, who has multiple sclerosis, said the beds are absolutely vital to people with serious degenerative conditions like Parkinson’s.
She said: “My sister used to go for respite care every two months. Now it will be every four months. Caring for her is a 24-hours-a-day job. We need a break and she needs a break.”
Multiple sclerosis is the most common PND among its patients while others have Huntington’s, motor neurone disease or Parkinson’s, whose sufferers include Back to the Future star Michael J Fox, left, and boxing legend Muhammad Ali.
Tory health spokesman Jackson Carlaw MSP branded health chiefs’ axe swinging “premature”.
He said: “It sounds like this decision may be worthy of a revisit, especially in light of the criticism from those who know the unit so well. It’s important that patients and their carers are at the forefront of any decision.”
Professor Alex McMahon, director of strategic planning, performance reporting and information, NHS Lothian, said: “Following extensive public consultation, the decision to combine inpatient and community-based services for the Lanfine Service was approved. The service will be redeveloped over the coming months and in a phased approach. We plan to gradually reduce from 18 beds until the programme is complete.
“The level of public engagement in the redesign process at the Lanfine Unit was highlighted as one of the best examples of public engagement.”