Published: 06:00, 07 September 2019
The last dedicated unit for looking after Swale's violent dementia patients is threatened with closure.
The two-ward Frank Lloyd Unit next to Sittingbourne Memorial Hospital has already had its 40 beds stripped to just eight.
Now it is claimed there are plans by NHS Swale Clinical Commissioning Group to shut it completely.
Relatives of patients have been sent letters telling them to find alternative places.
Campaigner Denise Petro, 72, of Kent Avenue, Sittingbourne, said: “This is an absolute disgrace.
"This unit is for people with severe dementia who unfortunately have violent tendencies.
“The CCG in its infinite wisdom has decided there is no longer a need for the care provided by the Frank Lloyd Centre and over the past year has closed one floor reducing the capacity from 40 to eight.
“It is anticipated the centre will be closed by March 2020 as it has been deemed there is no longer a need for personalised dementia care within the area and that local care homes can cope with these violent patients.
“But this is not the case. Frank Lloyd Centre staff have had specific training in dealing with patients like this.
"Not all staff in other homes have received this training.”
She added: “I have been involved with the Frank Lloyd Centre over the years and have seen the type of patient staff have to deal with.
"These patients cannot be integrated into a normal care home. The Frank Lloyd Centre is the last one of its kind in Kent.
"It is criminal the CCG has deemed it OK to close a specialised home and has downgraded it over the past year by not taking any further patients when it is obvious there is a need for specialised patients who are violent.
“How can it be that a specialised home is allowed to close when there are not enough beds to cater for the number of patients?”
She has written to Sittingbourne and Sheppey MP Gordon Henderson asking for help.
A spokesman for NHS Kent and Medway clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) said: “The Frank Lloyd Unit provides care for people from across Kent and Medway with a diagnosis of dementia and complex behavioural needs.
“As part of its duty to ensure people with these needs receive the best care available, the NHS is undertaking a process of engagement and consultation with the public, patients and their families.
“How can it be that a specialised home is allowed to close when there are not enough beds to cater for the number of patients?” Denise Petro
“This will consider how care can best be delivered for people with dementia and behaviours that challenge, with a focus on providing enhanced support in the community. This is in line with the national strategy for dementia care.”
Thirty-four staff at the unit are formally being consulted about moving to other services.
The Frank Lloyd Unit is a short-stay unit. Once a patient’s needs have stabilised, they are discharged to their usual place of residence such as a care home or their own home.
This means the numbers looked after at the unit, operated by Kent and Medway NHS and Social Partnership Trust (KMPT), can fluctuate. The spokesman said the available funding was not being cut.
Relatives of residents have been sent letters by Naomi Hamilton, head of mental health commissioning at NHS Swale Clinical Commissioning Group. She wrote: “There is an opportunity for the NHS to re-invest funding used for the Frank Lloyd Unit into an enhanced community-based service whether at home, in a care home or nursing home. Therefore, we propose to decommission the remaining beds at the Frank Lloyd unit.”
The first meeting with relatives was on Wednesday.