Public outcry over plans to cut 26 beds for elderly patients at Edinburgh hospital

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Plans to cut 26 beds dedicated to elderly parents at the Western General Hospital have sparked an outcry from families, politicians, and experts.

Health bosses have decided to close an entire ward at the Royal Victoria Building which was purpose-built in 2012 to provide specialist care for older patients.

Sharon Roberts, 60, with her late mother.

Sharon Roberts, 60, with her late mother.

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The space will be used instead for an oncology treatment centre.

Sharon Roberts, 60, whose late mother had dementia and received ‘excellent’ care at the Royal Victoria, said she was ‘deeply concerned’ when a staff member told her the ward would close by November.

She said: “Staff are devastated about the closure, they are being displaced all over the NHS and it just doesn't seem right.”

Ms Roberts said staff have already had a difficult year following the loss of their consultant and dementia expert, professor John Starr, who died suddenly in December.

She went on: “If he was alive he would not have allowed this closure.

“I don't understand why a specialist built facility should change its care plan when it is providing outstanding care and has worked hard to develop it's reputation.

“I feel sad and let down, I feel like we are not looking after our elderly patients appropriately. It worries me about what the future holds for our elderly.”

A service user, who preferred to remain anonymous, said: “The ward delivers care with compassion and empathy to both patients and their families, offers many diversional therapies and has an invaluable dementia garden offering tranquil and safe outside space.

“I am astonished that this service should be so disposable as the medical care given is amazing and I have experienced many facilities that apparently provide expect care but fall short of the mark.”

Lothian conservative MSP Miles Brigg said there had been a downward trend in the number of dementia beds in the region over the last 10 years.

He said: “We have an ageing population and figures earlier this month revealed that deaths from dementia in Scotland have almost tripled in the last 15 years.

“There are increasing numbers of people and families in Edinburgh and the Lothians who need support for those living with dementia.

“Edinburgh currently has a crisis in social care and the number of beds for the elderly should not be reduced until this crisis has been resolved.”

Jim Pearson, director of Policy and Research, Alzheimer Scotland, said: “It is essential that people with dementia, their families and carers are fully involved in decisions which affect them.

"Alongside this, health and social care partnerships must ensure that investment inappropriate and high-quality alternatives are in place before any closure of hospital beds or wards.”

Chris Stirling, site director of the Western General Hospital, said: “This is not an immediate plan. Over the next two months, we will carry out a gradual and phased reduction in the numbers of beds within Medicine for the Elderly Services at the Western General Hospital site.

“Patients in Ward 71 will be discharged when they are ready to go home and the ward will not accept any new admissions. This will allow crucial upgrade and reconfiguration of wards on the campus.

“A pioneering new community programme, which has been devised by Edinburgh Health and Social Care Partnership, will be rolled out across the community to work with patients at home to reduce admission rates and provide support once they return home.

“Months of planning with clinical teams, staff and partnership, have gone into creating a specialist plan to ensure that disruption for patients will be kept to a minimum and that they should not be impacted.

“If relatives have any concerns or questions, they should make contact with the clinical team and they would be happy to discuss.”