Fears over shake up of mental health services for older people in district

Fears have been raised that the closure of Knaresborough’s Alexanders House could led to extra pressure on carers.

Members of the public raised their concerns over plans for the future of Alexander House at the first of four public consultations on Monday, November 12.

Former GP’s receptionist, Pam Godsell from Knaresborough, said: “My neighbour uses Alexander house, it is a relief for her husband when she goes off for the day knowing she will be taken care of.

“I just would hate to see any facilities disappear.”

Her friend Mavis Clemmitt, who worked as a voluntary coordinator for 35 years raised her concerns for the future of Alexander House, she said: “I just hope we don’t see it up for sale in a few years time.”

More than 30 people attended the meeting at Knaresborough House held by Harrogate and Rural District Clinical Commissioning Group.

Representatives from Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundations Trust (TEWV), who took over responsibility for mental health services in the district in June 2011, were also on hand to answer questions.

County Coun John Batt said: “I am pleased with the turn out and think it is good that people are being consulted.

“It is difficult because people here are used to having the facility on their door step.”

TEWV proposals include halving the number of specialist beds for older people with mental illness in the region, from 32 to the recommended 16, developing Alexander House into a community focused mental health resource centre for older people and strengthening community services for older people in care homes and in their own homes.

Claire Cowgill manager of Crystal Court care home in Pannal has worked closely with Alexander House over the years, she said: “I am not sure about the changes at the moment, especially with regard to the reduction of beds.

“There needs to be more support for carers in the community and in care homes.”

TEWV said that their proposals will help to provide the best possible care for older people whilst making the best use of taxpayers’ money.

The evening was chaired by County Coun Jim Clark, who is chairman of the North Yorkshire Scrutiny of Health Committee, and the presentation was followed by round table discussions.

Director of operations in North Yorkshire at TEWV, Adele Coulthard said she wished to emphasise the importance of keeping patients independent in their homes for as long as possible: “We have to support people’s well-being as best we can as close to home as we can so that people feel that they are safe,” she said.

Alison Hill, volunteer coordinator at Carers Resource spoke of her concerns for the well being of carers in the district. She said: “Carers have to be supported and need to be able to get help.

“We need equal support for the carers as for those being cared for.”

Chief executive of Age UK North Yorkshire, Alex Bird said: “As well as dementia there is a big issue of older people suffering from depression and anxiety, which is equally as important as dementia care.”

Public consultation will continue until January 21 2013 with meetings on Tuesday November 2pm at St Marks Church, Harrogate and Thursday November 22 6.15pm at St Robert’s Centre, Harrogate. A survey is also available online at www.harrogateandruraldistrictccg.nhs.uk.