Fears for future of dementia ward at Uckfield Hospital

Uckfield Hospital
Uckfield Hospital

Concerns have been raised about the future of the Beechwood specialised old people’s and dementia ward at Uckfield Community Hospital.

There are fears the ward could close under plans being considered by health trust chiefs.

The East Sussex Clinical Commissioning Group is currently reviewing dementia services at both Uckfield and the Conquest Hospital, Hastings.

A spokesperson said: “Commissioners are currently conducting a public consultation on the delivery of dementia services in East Sussex.

“Sussex Partnership will be making a Trust response in due course.”

Consultation ends today (Friday October 25) and options being considered are no change to services, reducing beds at both sites, consolidating beds on one site, closing both sites and creating a new model of bed-based dementia services, or a combination of the last two options.

Currently there are 16 beds at Uckfield and 18 beds on St Gabriel’s ward at the Conquest Hospital.

People in both towns fear the closure of either site could result in much longer travel times for relatives and leave older people more isolated than ever.

Bernard Trew, chair of the Friends of Uckfield Hospital said: “Stories about potential closure of Beechwood surfaced nearly three years ago, then it all went quiet.

“At that time they were talking about a possible move to Hastings.

“Dementia is mainly a disease of old age.

“How on earth would relatives be able to visit their loved ones regularly?

“Hastings is difficult to get to and well nigh impossible by public transport.

“Now the issue seems to be resurrected again.

“I can’t say strongly enough how much I oppose any closure in Uckfield.”

He pointed out the Beechwood Ward received a major refurbishment recently: “Thousands were spent on it, making it an attractive place to visit.

“Apart from the impact any closure might have on patients and their relatives, as far as I am concerned, this would be a disgraceful waste of money.”

News about the closure follows cut-backs on the hospital’s medical Harlands Ward, where the Express has been told staff have already been informed they are needed to work at Crowborough.

Mr Trew pointed out that the hospital had been built on land bequeathed to Uckfield by a benefactor and, as such, should be utilised for health related purposes, as intended.

Chris Wyatt, area manager for the Alzheimer’s Society, said there are 10,000 people suffering the disease in the county and there needed to be suport for them at the right time.

She said: “This is a complex issue and one which must keep the needs of people with dementia, not just the coffers of the NHS, at its heart.

“While we know people with dementia would rather avoid the need for hospital stays, this will only be possible if they receive the right support at the right time.

“It is vital that any suggestion of closing hospital beds is made hand in hand with the need to reinvest any savings in community services.

“Only then can we ensure that people with dementia are being supported to live well and are prevented from reaching crisis point.

“Even then some hospital provision will always be needed.

“There are nearly 10,000 people with the condition in East Sussex.

“Whatever decision is reached, we must ensure that no one is allowed to fall through the gaps.”