Readers of The News will already know that the Patey Centre, which offers care to dementia patients and support to their relatives in the north of the city, is facing closure.
The city council plans to end more than 20 years of care at the centre for a possible saving of £100,000 – but at what cost?
The centre’s patients and their relatives are understandably distressed by the prospect of leaving a familiar environment and by having to reach the Royal Albert Day Centre in the south of the city – a larger and less personal centre much further away for many of them.
Anyone who has had any contact with dementia knows just how important familiarity is to those it afflicts.
Any change would be a difficult adjustment, but the Patey Centre’s users could face the coming closure when they thought that in its place would be a purpose-built facility in the north of the city which would replicate what one carer described as ‘a local lifeline for my mother, as a small caring unit which understands her condition and provides a friendly and stimulating environment, and for myself as her carer it provides a chance to get some much-needed respite.’
But this no longer seems to be the council’s plan.
More troubling is that this decision will not impinge only upon those people who already use the centre, but on those who do not use it yet should do so.
Projections by the Clinical Commissioning Group suggest that there are 2,100 people living in Portsmouth with some form of dementia, more than 1,600 of whom will be living in the community.
Along with those figures, one must consider that dementia charities estimate there are more than 1,000 people in the city who have not been diagnosed – so potentially two-thirds of the statistically likely number of people living with dementia in our communities are not receiving support they need.
In such circumstances, now does not seem to be a propitious time at which to rationalise dementia services and it is not what one would expect of a council which aspires to run ‘a dementia-friendly city where people with dementia feel included and supported, get diagnosed early, find information and support easy to access.’
We all appreciate the need for the council to make savings, but this should not be done by false economies – losing skilled staff and services when our city needs both.