Murraypark Nursing Home closure fears spark anger at NHS

PEOPLE with disabilities face losing their home of almost 20 years after health chiefs drew up plans to close it.

Wednesday, 25th May 2016, 6:05 am
Updated Wednesday, 25th May 2016, 7:17 am
Teressa Lynch and Tony Cassar. Picture: Toby Williams

Murraypark Nursing Home currently houses 15 patients with complex learning disabilities at a site in the grounds of the old Corstorphine Hospital.

The hospital closed in 2014 and NHS Lothian has now admitted that the care home could also shut.

Worried relatives today accused NHS Lothian of displaying a lack of compassion for vulnerable patients.

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Teresa Lynch’s elder brother Tony has been living at Murraypark since it was built in 1999. He was born three months prematurely and needs round-the-clock care as he is unable to walk or talk.

She fears the 58-year-old would be badly affected should the home close.

Teresa, of Hunter’s Tryst, said: “My brother cannot speak for himself so I am his voice.

“I am certain he would not wish to be removed and split from his closest friends and placed in a strange environment where he is unfamiliar and knows no-one.

“This is totally unacceptable. It would appear that someone has made this decision without any care or compassion and they haven’t even bothered to contact and officially inform their families.

“I think this is disgusting and shows a complete lack of compassion for my brother and his friends.”

NHS chiefs said no decision has been taken yet, but the proposed move would reflect a national policy to shift care for people with learning disabilities into the community.

Corstorphine Hospital was closed by NHS Lothian in 2014, as the ageing buildings were deemed not fit-for-purpose.

The future of Murraypark, which is made up of three adjoining bungalows with six beds in each building, is not linked to the eventual sale of the land.

Teresa, 54, said: “It’s a beautiful place – it’s like walking into your own house. When Tony moved there I went to all these meetings and I was promised it would be his home for his whole life.

“Most of the people have lived there for there for years. The staff are absolutely fantastic. They are very, very caring.

“The residents are happy, they have great social lives and they are like a family. Although they cannot speak, you can see when they are happy and calm. My brother is not very comfortable with people touching him, but he is comfortable with the staff. They have spent years getting to know him and building up a sense of trust.”

The family are now desperate for answers as they claim NHS bosses have ignored pleas for information, leaving them to gather everything second- or third-hand.

Teresa finally received a letter from the health board on Saturday, informing her “the planning process has not yet begun” but stating that health chiefs were keen to engage with families.

Their 88-year-old mother, Maria Cassar, who visits Tony every Saturday to bring him home-cooked food, has been worrying herself sick over what will happen to her son.

Mum-of-two Teresa said: “They don’t know where they are going to end up and there’s no communication whatsoever. It’s clearly just a money-making exercise for NHS Lothian. They are putting that before the happiness of the patients. I think it is very, very sad, and very, very shocking.”

Murraypark is surrounded by beautiful grounds, which allow Tony to explore the outdoors. His family are concerned that will be lost if he moves to a more urban setting.

The loss of the home would hurt residents and families, said Alex Cole-Hamilton, Liberal Democrat MSP for Edinburgh Western.

Mr Cole-Hamilton said: “These residents have very severe disabilities and any change to their routine could be devastating. It is a lovely facility, which I have visited myself.

“If Murraypark were to close, it would be a tragedy for the residents and the community. It shows the dramatic problems that there are funding these services.”

Health bosses have promised that patients will get the same level of care, regardless of their decision, and relationships between carers and patients will be preserved where possible.

Professor Alex McMahon, director of strategic planning, performance reporting and information at NHS Lothian, said: “We have written to families and carers of patients at Murraypark inviting them to discuss with us the way in which we provide care and support in the future.

“These plans are in the very early stages. We want to ensure that everyone who has a relationship with Murraypark can be involved and can have their questions answered. The proposed changes reflect national policy which aims to ensure that all people with a learning disability receive the support they require in the community rather than in a long-stay hospital.

“Our aim is for people to live in accommodation which meets their care needs and is as homely as possible.”