A public consultation should be held into plans to close three dementia wards and move patients elsewhere, a West Sussex scrutiny committee has decided.
Plans to close the two-ward Harold Kidd Unit, in Chichester, and the Iris Ward at Horsham Hospital were discussed by members of the health & adult social care select committee on Wednesday, with concerns raised about the impact the changes would have on patients and their families.
West Sussex clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) are working with the Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust to improve services for people with mental health problems, including those living with dementia.
With the Harold Kidd buildings described as having poor layout and outdated accommodation, the plan is to move the 22 male and female patients to single-sex wards at Meadowfield Hospital and The Burrowes, both at Worthing’s Swandean site off the A27 and Crawley’s Langley Green Hospital.
The 12 women on Iris ward, which was described as being too isolated, will be moved to a new ward on the first floor of Salvington Lodge, in Worthing.
The committee was told that the proposed changes would allow a centre of excellence for people living with dementia to be set up at Salvington Lodge, which already has a physical health care unit on site.
There had been concerns that the changes would see a drop in the number of beds available for West Sussex dementia patients but the meeting was told this was not the case.
Frances Russell, of the Healthwatch West Sussex, said she felt the changes would hit residents from Chichester and Horsham hardest.
With many of their carers also being elderly and unable to travel to Worthing or Crawley, Ms Russell was concerned that dementia patients would find themselves ‘disconnected’.
She also questioned the level of community services available to dementia patients, saying they were ‘not there and not in place in any strength’ in the areas being targeted for change.
Ms Russell told partnership members that, while she understood the reasons for the changes, she added: “I don’t like the way you’re doing it. I think it will impact on patients and I think that’s not what should happen.”
Matt Powls, director of commissioning, mental health Sussex & East Surrey, said: “There’s been a number of Care Quality Commission reports which have talked about the state of the accommodation and that it’s not fit for purpose.
“In terms of the proposals, it will allow us to put patients in accommodation in facilities that are fit for purpose. It will allow the provider to develop a centre of excellence for dementia which I think is, in terms of the ageing population, is absolutely critical.
“I think that will be a real benefit for the people in West Sussex.”
Regarding the consultation, Mr Powls added: “We want to hear people’s views. The consultation is an opportunity for the different sectors within the community to have a voice and to either suggest things and be part of the dialogue.
“This is not a fait accompli. What we do want to do is give people high-quality services in facilities that are high-quality as well.”
The public consultation is expected to start on Monday July 8 with the Harold Kidd changes scheduled for December and Iris ward for April/May 2020.