Plea to save day care centre

SHAUN LOWTHORPE Health chiefs are being urged to rethink a controversial plan to close a specialist day care centre for people with dementia. Norfolk and Waveney Mental Health Care Trust last month unveiled plans to shut down the Octagon Centre, based at Hellesdon Hospital near Norwich.

SHAUN LOWTHORPE

Health chiefs are being urged to rethink a controversial plan to close a specialist day care centre for people with dementia.

Norfolk and Waveney Mental Health Care Trust last month unveiled plans to shut down the Octagon Centre, based at Hellesdon Hospital near Norwich.

The centre, the only one of its kind in the Norwich area, helps people in the advanced stages of Alzheimer's. It employs six full time staff and several part time workers.

The Trust, which this year is facing a £2m funding cut from Norfolk PCT, said the move was in response to government initiatives to shift towards more community based care.

But critics fear those with dementia and their families will lose out.

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Broadland district councillors will be asked to support a motion deploring the decision and seeking a postponement to allow for more public consultation.

Hellesdon councillor Tom Gasson, who has put forward the motion, said he hoped it would enjoy cross party backing. And he also hoped neighbouring councils would lend their support.

“The decision should be brought before the public so that people can have their say,” he said. “There are 12,700 Alzheimer's sufferers in Norfolk and there could by 25,000 by 2025. You just can't leave these people high and dry. It's very hard for the families and carers to deal with and this centre gives them a bit of respite.”

Andrew Chidgey, head of policy and campaigns for the Alzheimer's Society, said he was concerned the proposals would “seriously disadvantage people with dementia and their families”.

“The Octagon provides essential care and support to people with dementia, including to those with symptoms such as hallucinations and aggression,” he said. “The centre provides support to family carers to take respite that they may not otherwise have access to.”

“We strongly urge Norfolk and Waveney Mental Health Trust to explain how people with dementia and their carers will continue to have access to a range of local, high quality services that will meet their individual needs.”

A spokeswoman for Norfolk PCT said: “Norfolk Primary Care Trust is committed to working with the mental health trust to provide the best quality and evidence-based services within the budget we have.”