Dementia: the problem we cannot ignore

kna  Alexander House.  (121115M3)
kna Alexander House. (121115M3)

Harrogate needs a purpose-built dementia care unit to replace facilities earmarked for closure, while the town’s hospital faces challenges treating patients with the disease, it has been claimed.

The district needs a state-of-the-art specialist care facility for people with dementia, County Coun Jim Clark, chair of North Yorkshire County Council’s Scrutiny of Health Committee said, after residential care services at Alexander House in Knaresborough have been earmarked for closure.

Coun Clark said: “This is a very important issue for the county, and for Harrogate district in particular.”

Tees, Esk and Wear Valley NHS Board (TEWV) plans to move Alexander House’s inpatient services for people with dementia to the Rowan Ward in Harrogate Hospital.

But councillors at a committee meeting on Friday spoke of worries about the Rowan Ward site.

Coun Clark said: “I have some concerns over the move from Alexander House to the Rowan Ward.

“Without investment the facilities there are not adequate.”

Instead, Harrogate should get a purpose built and dedicated dementia care facility, he added.

But TEWV’s Director of Operations Adele Coulthard told the committee that while Rowan Ward is in line for £350,000 investment to bring the facilities up to scratch, there are no firm plans for a purpose built unit.

She said: “We would like to come back in 10 to 12 months to talk about a new-build or other options for dementia and adult mental health in Harrogate.

“If it is a new build – and it is a big if – it will take three to five years to get off the ground.

Dementia care is acknowledged as a growing major issue across the country. Councillors also heard that Harrogate Hospital faces a growing challenge in the way it treats patients with the disease.

Janet Probert, from Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust, told the committee that 10 per cent of the hospital’s patients are over 90.

“Only five percent of people with dementia only have dementia. They may have a chest infection or have fallen. Apart from maternity and paediatrics, there is no ward in Harrogate Hospital that does not regularly deal with people who have dementia,” she added.

Prime Minister David Cameron has described dementia as one of the greatest challenges of our time.

The £50m fund was announced by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt in October to create dementia friendly environments in hospitals and care homes across the country.