LETTER: Nurse’s disgust over care of older people with dementia

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I AM writing to express my disgust at the general treatment of older people in the country as a whole but more so at the closure of mental health admission/assessment wards for older people with functional illness and dementia.

I am a nurse at Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust and recently this trust has closed two wards at Blackburn and the plan is to close the dementia admission ward at Burnley. The plan for 2015 or sooner is to use sites at Preston and eventually all patients with dementia to go to a new unit at Blackpool. This trust has, as one of its values, “compassion.” How is expecting the spouse of any person admitted to go to Blackpool to visit compassionate? These spouses are old themselves and often have physical ailments of their own and can hardly afford to live off their meagre pensions, never mind use their money to travel or visit. Many have never been apart from their wives/husbands for 50 years or more. The Trust, and not just Lancashire but nationwide, have said the care will be improved in the community yet community services are being cut and teams reduced and the area expected to be covered is increased causing increased stress levels on community mental health nurses.

The wards at Burnley are now often full and patients are being transferred all over Lancashire and on occasions there are no beds at all within the Trust. The wards are often short staffed and the use of bank staff and agency is very high but these staff are not experienced in older adult care especially dementia care. Research has shown dementia sufferers deteriorate when in unfamiliar surroundings yet the Trust is happy to move them all around the country if necessary. When the older people’s wards at Burnley are not full the younger adults are now using older adult wards as they have a shortage of beds also. This also creates vulnerability and puts older adult patients and nurses at risk as their expertise is with older people not younger ones. I believe the Trust aim is to amalgamate all nurses and younger adult nurses. This shows senior managers do not have a clue about the nurses’ expertise or the patients’ needs.

The whole treatment of our older people in this country is disgusting, whether ill or not, and it seems this country would rather treble the money for immigrants each week than put money into the care of those who have worked all their lives.

The Government says it is spending more in dementia care/research and yet situations like this are happening. As someone who works in the field of older adults care in Lancashire all I can say is that the nurses know what is really happening and that is a devastating deterioration in care and certainly not an improvement in any area at all, whether this be the community or ward based care. Nurses are scared to write to the Press as they are actually banned from doing so and their jobs will be at risk. So, just like the rest I cannot give my name but I so wish I could as this is a local and national disgrace.