Recommending this course of action was without question one of the hardest things I have ever had to do in my Council career as I had to balance the needs of current residents, alongside best use of Council resources and the needs of future dementia care clients. People suffering from dementia are some of the most vulnerable people in our community and I take my responsiblity towards them as Lead Councillor very seriously indeed.
A number of families attended the meeting to find out the decision and for obvious reasons feelings ran high.
Although familes felt the process was to short, it feels to me like the whole process has been going for quite long time as I have been involved long before I became Lead Councillor.
I have been closely involved in discussions around planning dementia future care provision since 2009 when I led a detailed scrutiny review on the subject as Chair of the then Housing, Health & Community Care Scrutiny Panel. I chaired a public meeting and as a result of the review a number of detailed recommendations were made to the then Labour Cabinet.
My conclusions at that time are worth highlighting as I think they are still pertinent:
'As this year's budget discussions showed, demand for care in Reading is growing, year on year, and Council resources are not limitless. This will not change next year, or the year after. It will be a challenge facing whichever party takes overall control of Reading Borough Council in the future.When I wrote this I had no idea that less than 2 years later I would be be faced with taking the decision or that the Council's finances would have come under such severe pressure on top of massive growth pressures (of elderly people coming into the system).
My view is we have a duty of care to the elderly and it is incumbent on all parties to think long-term about how care will be provided by the Council.
Any decisions about care must be fair to all but they must also be sustainable. That means fair to people of all ages in Reading, both the elderly receiving care and younger generations helping to pay for it.'
I have found the whole process very difficult, particularly as I have got to know family members personally both during the scrutiny review and during the more recent formal consultation.The way they have conducted themselves and spoken up for their loved ones has been exemplary - a real credit to the local community.
I am determined to ensure that the Council continues to support them as much as possible both now and in the future.
As I said in the meeting I wish I had a spare £2 million pounds available in my budget to make the necessary improvements to Edward Hughes so that it could remain open. However, even if I did leaving Tanfield just 20% occupied would not be a good use of the Council's resources. With this in mind I do think this is the right decision. Merging Edward Hughes and Tanfield enables the Council to continue to provide inhouse Dementa care service. Throughout the consultaion period family members were clear they wanted see the continuation of a Council-run service - this is a real endorsement of the excellent care provided by the Council's care staff. I was pleased that the Tanfield option gave us the opportunity to continue to provide care.
Concerns were expressed by famliy members about family members potentialy moving into private sector care homes. This is understandable but it's important to state that th Council only purchases good or excellent homes and the Council is willing to act quickly where substandard care or services are identified.
I'm pleased to say that this has not become a party political issue and the support of councillors from all parties has made a real difference.
Our focus now must be on ensuring that the transition for clients from Edward Hughes to Tanfield and elsewhere is as smooth as possible.
With increasing numbers of elderly people expected to suffer from dementtia in the future (there are estimated to be over 750, 000 people in the UK with dementia and numbers are expected to double in the next thirty years) we must plan for the future to ensure services are in place for people that need them. With this in mind I am pleased that the Coalition Government has pledged to prioritise Dementia research