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Cross-party panel expected to respond to Gillis Unit relocation plan

A cross-party scrutiny panel is being formed with a view to making a response to the Southern Trust’s plans to relocate dementia assessment inpatient care from Armagh to Craigavon.

Armagh I first reported in June a number of proposals which would see radical changes to local health services primary accessed by the elderly.

These could be introduced within the next number of years and are currently out to public consultation.

One would see an end to the Gillis Unit at St Luke’s Hospital in Armagh, as the dementia services currently offered there are proposed to be relocated to Craigavon Area Hospital.

At a recent committee meeting of Armagh Council, Lord Mayor Cathy Rafferty expressed concerns on cuts made to the carer service for the elderly and the impact it had had, particularly for those with additional medical needs.

It was agreed that a scrutiny panel should be established, with two representatives from each party, to consider the Trust’s consultation document.

It was also agreed that, if appropriate, officers would prepare a draft consultation response for approval at a suitable meeting prior to the consultation closing date of October 31.

If rubber-stamped, acute stroke services would also no longer be available at Daisy Hill Hospital, while dementia assessment inpatient care would cease in Armagh, with both being centralised in Craigavon.

In addition, in-patient non-acute hospital services for older people, which are currently available at five locations across the entire Southern Trust area, would be reduced to two – Daisy Hill and Craigavon.

In June the Southern Trust began a four month consultation process on the relocation of the Gillis Unit in Armagh to a new fit for purpose unit on the Craigavon Area hospital site. The Gillis unit is the centre for Dementia Assessment Inpatient Care in the Southern area.

The consultation process, the Trust says, is to agree a clear vision for this important service, while recognising it will be two to three years before there will be any change in where the service is currently located.

Most people with dementia are looked after in the community, supported by families and carers and by a range of Trust services, including memory clinics, day care and community dementia teams. There is no-one in the Southern Trust with dementia who is currently living in long-term hospital care.

The Gillis Unit is the Trust centre for specialist dementia inpatient services. Patients who are admitted to the unit will have a complex range of physical and mental health needs and can also need access to care in an acute hospital, which currently involves potentially distressing and unsettling transfers between hospitals.

Explaining the proposals at the time, Trust Chief Executive Mairead McAlinden said: “Expert evidence recommends that inpatient care for dementia patients is best provided on an acute site to ensure access to the full range of diagnostic and treatment services.

“We are proposing to relocate this service to Craigavon, which will improve immediate access to acute care and psychiatric services and allow us to develop accommodation which is designed to meet the particular needs of patients with dementia.

“At the same time, we are enhancing our community dementia services to offer a range of support to patients with dementia including the development of long term placements in the community for patients with challenging behaviour.

“Our aim is that everyone has the right to equal care, and that when anyone needs health or social care they will be treated in the right place, by the most appropriate person and in a timely and compassionate way.”

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