Fears remain over future of disabled respite care bed facilities

Hartlepool Civic Centre
Hartlepool Civic Centre

A decision to keep two facilities that help adults with learning disabilities or complex needs and their carers recharge their batteries has been described as “the lesser of two evils” by one Hartlepool councillor.

Local care chiefs have decided that bed-based services will continue to be delivered from Bankfields Court, in Middlesbrough, and Aysgarth, in Stockton, after feedback from users and other interested parties.

De Bruce councillor  Brenda Harrison

De Bruce councillor Brenda Harrison

An alternative was to buy a range of bed-based respite services to replace the existing services.

The decision by NHS Hartlepool and Stockton-on-Tees (HAST) Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and NHS South Tees CCG followed a 10-week consultation from last September to November.

Hartlepool councillors Brenda Harrison and Lesley Hamilton sit on a joint scrutiny committee that has been looking at the issue.

Coun Harrison said: “That was the best of the two options. It says that it will give choice to the people who need respite care what kind of respite they have.”

But Coun Harrison said worries still remained over the long-term future for the bed-based services.

She added: “The worry is that they will be reduced and we haven’t really had a definite ‘no they will not be reduced’ from the CCG.

“We (the joint committee) weren’t happy with the result, although it was the better of the two evils.”

Other changes by the CCGs to make the service fairer for users include making the allocations process more needs led and buying flexible community-based respite services and outreach support services.

Just two people from Hartlepool use the Aysgarth respite service, but Coun Harrison suggested that did not reflect the need of town residents.

“The fact that two people use it doesn’t suggest for one minute that there aren’t a lot of people who need to use it they just obviously choose not to go out of town,” she said.

Ali Wilson, chief officer of NHS Hartlepool and Stockton-on-Tees CCG, and Amanda Hume, chief officer of NHS South Tees CCG, said in a joint statement: “We know how much the existing services and staff mean to people.

“We heard first-hand at our public consultation events the impact the services have on families across South Tees and the Hartlepool and Stockton areas.

“All the feedback received from the consultation; including both verbal and completed questionnaires; was vitally important in helping the CCGs make an informed decision on the future of learning disability services, and a decision that we believe reflects the majority view of people who took part in the consultation process.”