Health chiefs in the Borders have voted to axe nearly half of the region’s acute dementia beds.
The Health and Social Care Integration Joint Board (IJB) considered and approved a proposal to redesign dementia services in the Borders.
Aiming to enhance the care of people living with dementia, the redesign will involve investing in community resources and, as a result, reducing the number of dementia in-patient beds, currently located within Cauldshiels and Melburn Lodge wards on the Borders General Hospital campus.
The plan is part of ongoing efforts by the Health and Social Care Partnership, working with Scottish Borders Council and NHS Borders within the context of an overarching mental health transformation strategy to consider how to best care for the growing number of people with dementia.
Robert McCulloch-Graham, the partnership’s chief officer, said: “The first opportunity is the transfer of patients currently being cared for in the acute wards of Cauldshiels and Melburn Lodge at the Borders General Hospital. Provision at Cauldshiels is viewed as being unfit for purpose for dementia care.
“The unit is currently operating significantly under capacity, with less than 50% of the beds across the two units currently being occupied.”
He added: “Consequently, an opportunity has arisen to transform this service by closing the Cauldshiels ward and relocating patients to the homelier setting of Melbourne Lodge.
“The closure of Cauldshiels ward and the resetting of the model of care within Melburn Lodge will enable a significant improvement in quality of dementia care facilities, save significant annual revenue resources and avoid the need for substantial investment in the fabric of the Cauldshiels facility.”
Currently, Cauldshiels is used for more acute patients, and for assessment, while Melburn Lodge is a purpose-built facility providing longer stays.
Closing Cauldshiels will save the board £812,202, but £338,000 of that money will be ring-fenced for five new specialist beds, should demand for beds increase unexpectedly.
Kelso councillor Tom Weatherston said the move marks a change of direction in dementia care: “I welcome this, I feel it’s a huge step in the right direction.
“This may appear controversial to some, but sometimes you’ve got to stand up and be counted and I think we should be doing that. I certainly will.”
Mr McCulloch-Graham explained: “Shifting the balance of care to more informal and homely settings allows us to address this and provide better care for those living with dementia and their families.
“By taking this approach, patients will be able to access multi-disciplinary professionals required to support and provide appropriate care for the current wide range of differing needs.
“In the coming weeks, patients who are currently being cared for in one of our dementia in-patient wards will either be transferred to Melburn Lodge, home, or to a more suitable provision within the community which will be much more appropriate for their needs.
“As a result the bed capacity in Cauldshiels ward will no longer be required, and the model of care within Melburn Lodge will be reset to include assessment and treatment.”