Relatives to fight on in care homes battle

FAMILIES of residents at two Sheffield care homes which are to be shut down by the end of next year have vowed to do everything they can to fight the plans because of fears about the impact a move will have on their vulnerable relatives.

A meeting of the board of NHS Sheffield yesterday approved plans to cut 2.8 million in 'top-up' funding it currently provides to Birch Avenue care home in Chapeltown and Woodland View care home in Lightwood Lane, Norton, to help with their running costs looking after 100 residents with dementia.

The loss of the cash means the homes will be forced to close by the end of 2012, and the residents moved to alternative accommodation - although the primary care trust agreed to extend a three month consultation with relatives and staff to four months, before any final decision is taken.

Families of residents at Birch Avenue, run by South Yorkshire Housing Association, and Woodland View, managed by Guinness Northern Counties, have spoken of their worry and distress at the closures - and have pledged to do everything they can to prevent the proposals going ahead. But NHS Sheffield said the cuts are necessary because the homes are twice as expensive as other facilities providing the same kind of care.

Relatives have written to their MPs with their concerns and a Facebook site - search 'groups' for Friends of Woodland View - has also been set up.

A meeting is to be held on a date to be fixed next week for relatives to decide their course of action.

Susan Williams, whose husband Maxwell, 74, is a resident at Birch Avenue, said she had not slept since receiving the news about the potential closure. The 55-year-old from Wincobank said: "I have finally got him somewhere I feel happy to leave him and it is being taken away. The staff there are more than just carers - it's not just a job for them, they are like family and that's what makes it value for money. We have to do everything we can to stop this."

Sally Hartley's mother Rosemary Arber - a former Lady Mayoress of Sheffield who was married to the late Lord Mayor Tony - is a resident at Woodland View.

Sally said a new campaign website is being set up, and hopes as many relatives as possible will attend next week's meeting and raise the issue with the health service ombudsman.

She said: "We cannot sit back and let them do this. There are 100 vulnerable people in these two homes - where are they going to go?

"My mum has made huge progress in the three months she has been a resident. If she has to leave we are going to head backwards not forwards."

Jayne Wood, whose father James Wilson, 79, is a resident at Birch Avenue, agreed. "We cannot just give up without a fight - we have to protect our relatives who have got this disease through no fault of their own," he said.

And Michelle Weaver, whose 71-year-old dad Alan Boulby is a resident at Woodland View, added: "It's the last option you have, putting your parent in a home.

When you have found one you love and it gets taken away it's devastating - we have to try to stop this."

Ian Atkinson, interim chief executive at NHS Sheffield, said: "We know the quality of care provided at Birch Avenue and Woodland View is high, but there is no evidence they provide sufficient additional value to justify extra cost to the taxpayer and to NHS services.

"We have tried hard to find ways to reduce the costs but the majority of them relate to staff - and we cannot reduce the number of staff and still provide a safe and high quality service."

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