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Thursday, 30 October 2014

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Protesters: 'We'll still fight to save Woodlands’

THE group campaigning to save Woodlands care home has vowed to continue its fight to keep it open.

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Protest group: From left, Beryl Hunter, Lynn Carter, chairman William Gray and Dougie Hunter at the care home

Cumbria County Council announced last week that Woodlands in Distington WILL close following a three-month consultation period into modernising care for the elderly in the area.

The other two under threat homes – Park Lodge in Aspatria and Richmond Park in Workington – will remain open.

However, the Woodlands Care and Support Group is furious at the last Thursday’s decision and does not plan to give up its fight.

“Cumbria County Council has ditched Woodlands,” said the group’s chairman William Gray, whose father-in-law is a resident in the home, which specialises in dementia care.

“For the people who live there and their families, and for those who work there, the decision is a disgrace and we will carry on the fight.”

The council has started the closure process and will now cease admissions to the home. Officers will also meet Woodlands staff and families before the end of April to discuss the process, although the home will not close until next year.

Woodland has 19 residents (out of a 40 maximum) and 47 staff on permanent hours plus 23 providing relief hours to cover as required. This equates to around 29 full-time equivalents.

A council spokesman said: “The council will work with residents, their families and staff to decide on the most appropriate alternative care and ensure the move from old to new is handled sensitively to ensure the wellbeing of all residents. Depending on the needs of individual residents, this will happen over the next 12 months.

“The council will also work with staff and the trade unions to develop options including redeployment into protected vacancies within Cumbria Care and across the wider council.

“The authority has been protecting vacancies in other county council-run care services across the district.”

Mr Gray has expressed concern for the wellbeing of residents if they face the upheaval of a move.

“Woodlands was built in the 1970s as a purpose-built dementia unit; other homes do not have the facilities that Woodlands does.

“There is a safe, paved garden area in the middle for residents to use, and there is a doctor’s surgery and ambulance centre on its doorstep.

“Other homes have dementia units on their sites, but are not as specialised as Woodlands. The care residents receive there is outstanding.”

Distington councillor Brian Dixon, also a member of the support group, added: “The council is playing politics with people’s lives and I am really sad for the residents and their families.

“I don’t feel that the council or local county councillors have fought for Woodlands and this is the result.”

A county council spokes-man responded: “Any transfers of residents follows best practice guidelines and starts with a full reassessment of need. This will involve a range of professionals from both social care and health.

“This guidance – which involves working closely with residents, families, current staff and the staff at the new location – will ensure that the risk to residents is minimised.

“In previous transfers under the county council’s modernisation programme, there has not been any increase in mortality against the normal rates for homes unaffected by such transfers.

“Woodlands is not the only specialist dementia home in the area. Adult social care accesses around 232 residential and nursing dementia beds in Copeland and 280 in Allerdale. Many provide the high level care that Woodlands provides.

“For many years now, the prevalence of dementia has seen the residential care market expand its specialism and it is now commonplace for homes to support those with dementia with a good number providing high-level support.

“The home has served people well in the past but, like all buildings, it has a finite life. The staff are excellent but the building is out of date.

“To make changes would require extensive work and, from assessments done on similar council homes, would have probably involved demolition and rebuild.

“The fact is that we have too much residential provision in the district and we need to redistribute the funds used at Woodlands to support the development of new services particularly which allow people in future to choose to stay properly supported in their own home. This was the basis of the consultation exercise.”

Mr Gray added that, in his opinion, the council has failed to invest in Woodlands over the years in favour of other care homes, resulting in it now being deemed “not fit for purpose”.

And Mr Gray and Coun Dixon both claimed that the council had already decided to close the Woodlands – and keep Park Lodge and Richmond Park open – before the consultation process was even launched.

“The whole consultation period was deeply flawed,” Mr Gray said.

Copeland MP Jamie Reed, speaking when the consultation ended in February, added: “The staff, residents and families associated with Woodlands deserve much better than the treatment given to them by the county council in what is beginning to prove an emerging scandal.

“I have met with families and staff and it’s absolutely clear that no consultation worthy of the name has taken place.”

The council responded: “This was not a forgone conclusion; the aim of the consultation was to gather people’s views on a range of proposals. As we said throughout, no decision had been made and we have taken into account the views that were expressed during the consultation.”

Mr Gray said that if three county councillors come forward to support the Woodlands campaign, the decision will be called back in for a council scrutiny committee to re-assess the decision.

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