Campaign to halt tender process for Sheffield residents living with complex dementia needs

Birch Avenue care home in Chapeltown
Birch Avenue care home in Chapeltown
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A campaign has been launched to halt plans to put the care of more than 40 patients with severe and complex forms of dementia out to tender.

Relatives and friends of the patients, now being cared for at Birch Avenue Home in Chapeltown, have launched an online petition asking the Sheffield Clinical Commissioning Group to put the plans on hold for six months to give time for a range of other options for the home’s future to be considered.

Campaigner Sue Harding

Campaigner Sue Harding

Birch Avenue is funded by the Sheffield Clinical Commissioning Group but run by the Sheffield NHS Health and Social Care Trust through a contract with the South Yorkshire Housing Association.

That contract is being put out to tender because there have since been increases in the level of staffing which were not accounted for financially when it was agreed.

The home is rated 'Good' by the Government health regulator the Care Quality Commission.

One of the campaigners, Sue Harding, who also presented a petition to stop the closure of Hurlfield View in Gleadless, said: “This needs to be seen in the context of the wider strategy in Sheffield for the care of people with severe behavioural problems as a result of dementia.

“We're not talking about all those poor souls suffering from dementia. We are talking about the minority who need most help because of the severity of their condition. They need the specialist help Birch Avenue provides. Anything which puts the level of care there at risk would not only harm current patients but create problems for others who will need its help in future.

“We have already seen the threatened closure of Hurlfield View, which was part of the provision for patients with dementia, and fear that this decision to put the Birch Avenue contract out to tender could be the thin end of the wedge.

“We understand the problems the Trust are facing but see no evidence that they have considered any other option and feel they should have shared the problem with all the relevant stakeholders before rushing such a crucial decision.”

One of the first names on the petition is former MP, Helen Jackson, who opened the home in 1994.

She said: “Birch Avenue provides a marvellous service for the most vulnerable people in our community and, at a time when there is a growing demand and a crisis in the provision of all forms of social care, it seems perverse to put the current level of care at risk."

Campaigners say they want a more detailed consultation both with relatives or with the current management and staff.

The existing contract will be terminated in May and the tendering bid process ends on Friday.

Matt Powls, director of commissioning at NHS Sheffield CCG, said: “We know how valued the service at Birch Avenue is and we want to make sure residents continue to get the specialist care they need.

"The tender has come about because the current provider of the service, Sheffield Health and Social Care NHS Foundation Trust , has given notice on their contract. As such, South Yorkshire Housing Association needs to find a new provider. For a contract of this value, SYHA needs to go through a procurement process – this is open to all types of organisations, including NHS trusts and not-for-profit bodies. There will not be any changes to the care provided, this will continue to be care for people with enhanced dementia needs as it is now.

“SHSCT’s decision to stop providing services followed extensive discussions between all parties to try to find a resolution. Unfortunately this did not prove possible, as such, the priority is to find an alternative provider in order to maintain the service provision. The petition has not been submitted to SCCG and halting the tender process would jeopardise SYHA’s ability to continue the service at Birch Avenue. We appreciate that relatives are concerned and SYHA is working to get their views and actively involve them in the procurement process.”