Fears grow for women’s dementia ward closure

The Royal Edinburgh is being refurbished. Picture: Ian Georgeson
The Royal Edinburgh is being refurbished. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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CONCERNED relatives have hit out at plans for the closure of Lothian’s only single-sex mental health unit for elderly woman with dementia.

NHS Lothian notified family members in April of proposals to relocate patients from the 15-bed Pentland Ward at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital (REH), as part of major redevelopment work at the Morningside facility.

Hospital chiefs have pledged to move the patients to community facilities across Edinburgh, including Ferryfield House and Findlay House, and to send nursing staff with the patients to ensure continuity of care.

But Jacky McKinney, of Whitson, said she was deeply concerned about the movement of her 84-year-old mother Ethel McKinney, who has been on the ward for nearly a year.

The pensioner was diagnosed with dementia nine years ago and she was cared for at home until 2013, when she was admitted to another ward at the REH.

Jacky, 51, said: “It’s being presented as a care decision when in fact it is about closing beds. The new places they have suggested are just not the environment I would want her to be in. They are simply farming them out.”

She added: “The staff at Pentland have been absolutely terrific. I would rather she was there where I know she is safe and is getting the best possible care. She is as happy as she could be in the ward.”

It is understood that the site will be used to provide care for patients from Myreside ward, a neighbouring unit for men with early onset dementia.

Dementia expert Professor June Andrews said she could empathise with the concerns of the patients’ relatives but advised that a hospital setting was not always the most appropriate place for people with dementia.

Prof Andrews, director of the Dementia Services Development Centre at Stirling University, said: “Sometimes it is easier to give care in the specially designed environment of a care home.

“So moving someone isn’t necessarily a bad thing but it has to be done properly to minimise risk and everyone has to be happy including the families.”

The first part of a ten-year plan to redevelop the Royal Edinburgh Hospital Campus started in January, which includes work to create new accommodation for the adult acute mental health inpatient service, older people’s mental health assessment, and a new national brain injury unit.

Tim Montgomery, director of operations at REH, said: “Following an assessment by the clinical teams on Pentland Ward, we believe that the most appropriate environment for these patients is no longer on a psychiatric hospital site but in purpose built care settings elsewhere in Edinburgh.

“We understand that patient’s families will have questions and concerns and set up two meetings for relatives in order to provide them with an opportunity to discuss the move in more detail with senior managers and the clinical teams involved.

“We are also in the process of arranging individual meetings for relatives and have also provided contact details for the senior nursing staff involved for anyone who would prefer to talk to someone in person.

“I’d like to reassure relatives that our most important priority is to make sure that the patients we care for are looked after in the best possible place.”