Tough decisions ahead for dementia care in Honiton

HONITON'S The Bungalow will re-open in the New Year, but apologetic health chiefs say its future remains uncertain.

HONITON'S The Bungalow will re-open in the New Year, but apologetic health chiefs say its future remains uncertain.

Passionate residents vented six months of strong feelings and gave Devon Partnership NHS Trust bosses both barrels at an explosive meeting on Monday night.

Trust chief executive Iain Tulley said sorry over a lack of consultation when the valued in-patient unit didn't re-open after a new roof was installed in July.

He admitted: "Our communication leaves a lot to be desired."

Mr Tulley added that, while the cherished service will re-open "in the next few months", it will serve a wider geographical area as other NHS centres in the region are re-developed, and The Bungalow's long-term future is unknown.

More than 50 residents packed into the town's Senior Citizens' Centre to tell the trust that The Bungalow was working well for the town, especially its dementia sufferers and their carers.

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"We need to have it and your taking it to pieces, it's worked for us here - for God's sake stop it," said Ken Sherman, a retired mental health nurse, who was applauded.

However, as �20 billion of cuts will be made from the NHS in the next five years, Mr Tulley and colleagues said the cash strapped trust wants to ramp up resources invested in community treatment, with in-patient beds the victim.

"While beds play a part, they are a very small part in the care we've got to provide to people with dementia," he said.

The trust wants to re-develop and refurbish units in Torbay, Exeter and Barnstaple as "centres of excellence" for older people with mental health problems.

"In the next few months, we will re-open The Bungalow. It will serve other geographical areas than it has previously, while we bring other units up to date.

"Then we will consider the long term and re-look at where we need beds. Until we have the services in place we can't say what the future holds," said Mr Tulley, adding "We have some tough choices to make."

It was revealed the issue of dementia is grossly underfunded, that not enough people are being treated, and only 33 per cent of those with the illness have been properly diagnosed.

Dr David Summerfield said: "There is an awful lot of resource tied up in hospital beds. We want people working in the community and are looking at fewer beds and supporting more people at home. That said, we do need hospital beds and respite care."

Mr Summerfield added that in East Devon, 70 per cent of resources are tied up in hospital beds. South Devon has 92 per cent of its resources invested in work in the community.

Carers spoke out and praised The Bungalow's staff and services as "wonderful", urging the NHS chiefs to ensure sufficient respite care was in place for them.

Heather Penwarden, a former senior nurse at the bungalow, reminded the meeting The Bungalow was a centre of excellence. "It's very sad what is happening," she said. "It wasn't about beds, it was about a whole lot more - we're mourning the loss of it."

Councillor Peter Halse said the NHS representatives were "honourable men", "trying to do what they think is right" but warned them they were making a "very big mistake.