DEMENTIA services at a mental health hospital in Hartlepool look set to be transferred to Middlesbrough under new plans aimed at improving treatment.
Sandwell Park, in the town’s Lancaster Road, currently cares for patients with dementia and functional illnesses such as anxiety and depression.
But under plans by the Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust, health chiefs are proposing to transfer the dementia care to a specialist facility called Westerdale South, at Roseberry Park, which is the trust’s multi-million pound mental health and learning disability development in Middlesbrough.
They say it would affect between 12 and 18 patients a year.
Health chiefs have moved to assure councillors it is not a cost-saving exercise but one that is aimed at improving the care in a dedicated dementia setting.
Hartlepool Borough Council’s health scrutiny forum met to hear the plans.
The trust acknowledged transport for families was a concern but said they would try and ensure there is transport available for the small number affected.
The aim is by improving the care on offer, the number of days patients will need to stay in a hospital-based environment would reduce.
David Brown, Tees director of operations, said Hartlepool was the only site which didn’t have separation for patients with dementia and functional illnesses.
He said: “There is capacity at Middlesbrough to deal with patients from Hartlepool for specialist dementia care.”
Mr Brown said patients can wander the whole unit in one continuous flow, there is specialist equipment, bright colours, lots of outdoor space and items on the wall to stimulate patients.
Dr Hashim Mohammed, clinical director at the trust, added Westerdale South was consultant-led and there was a high turnover of patients.
Independent councillor Keith Fisher asked if it was about saving money.
But Dr Mohammed, who said patient care was the top priority, said: “It is not about saving money, it is about helping to keep people within their homes.”
Mr Brown added: “We are looking to reduce the stay that people have in hospital.”
Labour councillor Stephen Akers-Belcher said the patients’ dignity was key and for patients to be in an appropriate setting.
Trust staff say they provide some of the best services in the country and are very proud of the work they do which includes a community health team, a specialist reablement worker and memory clinics with plans for an enhanced liaison and community psychiatry service.
Health chiefs, who want to introduce the changes from next year, say the plan to have functional patients only at Sandwell Park is the “best solution” to improve inpatient services for patients in Hartlepool and South Easington.
It will also help separate male and female patients at the town site.