Cuts will have to be made – NHS boss

Dr Ross Cameron
Dr Ross Cameron
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HEALTH boss Dr Ross Cameron has revealed that he does not see a future for a dementia unit in the town.

And while stressing that no decision has been taken about the future of Crumhaugh House, the NHS medical director has stated that Hawick has too many beds – and cuts will have to be made.

The former local GP was speaking at Tuesday night’s community council meeting in Tower Mill, where around 60 members of the public were told more about a review of the west end facility – which comprises the long-stay Wilton View dementia unit, and the long-term Teviot Bank ward upstairs.

And although unable to either confirm or deny rumours that the Crumhaugh Road hospital could close, the meeting was left in no doubt that the town’s elderly face an uncertain future.

In one of only two clear statements given throughout a tense hour-long debate, Dr Cameron said: “In my opinion, I don’t see the future in Hawick as having a specialist unit for dementia.” And he later stated: “There is a very high likelihood of a reduction in patient beds in the town.”

The controversial Teviot In-Patient Redesign Project is considering future service provision in the Teviot area – with a focus on shifting care away from institutions and into care at home. Dr Cameron explained: “There is a move away

n Continued on page 2 from traditional patient care, and that is a difficult message for people.”

And highlighting that community hospitals in Jedburgh and Kelso are now shut, and there are fewer wards at the BGH, he asserted: “Hawick is the only place in the Borders where beds have not been touched. Half of all community beds in the Borders are in this town, and there are twice as many beds per over 75s than the rest of the region. That is an anomaly that has to change.”

Councillor Stuart Marshall raised the biggest concern among those in attendance – which included relatives and NHS staff – about the impact such change would have on local patients and families. But Dr Cameron said future care would be provided at Borders General Hospital or in specialist homes such as Knowesouth. He added: “Staff are trained to cope in such circumstances, and patients would be moved to a place equally suitable.”

Community Councillor Marion Short received a round of applause when she stated: “I just don’t believe that it’s not down to money. The patients and their relatives are not even being considered in this.”

But the NHS boss argued that a reduction in beds has been proven to shorten the length of stay in hospital – a preferred trend also not seen in Hawick, with the average number of days spent in bed being 40, in contrast to region’s average of 18.

But a nurse at the meeting blasted: “I’m sorry to disagree with you, Dr Cameron, but people are readmitted all the time because they shouldn’t have been allowed to go home. I see it with my own eyes.”

And referring to the point that one quarter of beds in the town are blocked by delayed discharge, she added: “Bed blockers are not all Hawick people, which shows we already don’t have enough beds. I am concerned about what is going to happen to all our dear elderly people and where are we going to put them.”

The meeting heard that a steering group formed as part of the review has concluded that the best option would be to consolidate beds in the Community Hospital – however the health board will make a final decision following public consultation.

Dr Cameron commented: “Crum-haugh House is a very good building and does have a future. There are a variety of uses a place like that could have, and there is a commitment and willingness to do whatever we can to make sure the building continues to play an important part for the elderly in the town. But we have to change now, and if we don’t, we will not be able to meet the challenges ahead.”