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Think long and hard before closing care unit
with Patrick O'Brien
THE CARE homes charity MHA seems light on commitment in the case of Hafan y Waun, its spacious, purpose-built complex on the outskirts of Aberystwyth which opened in 2007 giving an undertaking that it would provide dementia care for 50 residents and nursing care for 40.
Less than four years after it opened, just 20 of its 40 nursing beds are occupied, but not because of lack of demand. Nursing care for old people in Ceredigion is in short supply, and many families would have been delighted if their frail relatives had secured a place at such a modern and well-equipped home.
But this under-use of sought-after beds is not a recent development. There have been no new admissions to any of the 40 nursing beds on the unit’s top floor since 2009, and relatives have now been told in a letter from the Derby-based MHA’s group chief executive, Roger Davies, that following “discussions and agreement” with Ceredigion council “no further residents requiring nursing care will be admitted to Hafan y Waun”.
The reason is unclear and, despite three assurances last week that my request for information about the background to MHA’s agreement with the council would receive a quick reply, I’ve received no response. Detailed questions to the council on the same subject have similarly so far gone unanswered.
Some things are clear. There is a move to close the council’s Bodlondeb non-nursing care-home in Penparcau, which needs repairs and renovation costing £275,000, and move residents to Hafan y Waun. We know too that MHA is interested in seeking registration for provision of residential care at Hafan y Waun in place of nursing care.
We also know that, early in 2010, an inspection of Hafan y Waun by the Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales resulted in a temporary “voluntary embargo” by MHA to suspend all admissions to the home to allow management to make “necessary adjustments and improvements to systems within the home”, although by April last year there had been a “phased lifting” of the embargo.
There is no suggestion, however, that any problems found by the inspectorate were particularly grave, with concerns including alleged shortcomings in matters relating to the regular review and rewriting of assessments of people being cared for.
The seriousness of the MHA-county council withdrawal of nursing beds would be general and specific. Hafan y Waun is alone among Ceredigion homes in offering care for people suffering from various forms of dementia. Until now, if such residents have needed temporary or permanent nursing care they have been transferred to the home’s nursing section. If that option is to be closed, extremely vulnerable old people now face the prospect of a highly unsettling move to homes outside the county. MHA should think long and hard before ending nursing care at this invaluable unit.
Census collectors lose way
CENSUS collectors last week began knocking on the doors of an estimated seven million households in Wales and England which have failed to fill in and return the forms.
I encountered one of the enforcers the other day. He looked mildly distressed, and it turned out he was having trouble locating places, which wasn’t surprising since a lot of houses round these country lanes haven’t got names on their front doors.
But there was a certain irony about his predicament, given that the £150m contract to run the exercise has been awarded to American arms manufacturer Lockheed Martin, a point I’ll return to.
One of the reasons quite a few people have said they’ll be boycotting the census is because of claims that legal safeguards in place to prevent breaches in data security are flimsy, that the law that applies to census data does not stop intelligence services or foreign law-enforcement agencies and secret services seeking access to the information. They are not persuaded by the Office of National Statistics assurance that the data will be “protected and securely managed”.
In addition, census refuseniks contend that because Lockheed is an American company and therefore subject to the Patriot Act, which allows the US government access to any data in its possession, American authorities could have access to personal data on the UK’s entire population - a claim vigorously dismissed by the ONS.
But some of the millions hesitating about filling in their forms may be puzzled when they try to relate some of the questions to the ONS headline statement: “You need to take part so that services in your area – like schools, hospitals, housing, roads and emergency services – can be planned and funded for the future.”
Fine, they may say. But how is that worthy ambition helped by anyone revealing whether they have one GCSE or more than five, who precisely they work for or whether they are married?
But to return to the aforementioned irony, that it is odd that census collectors linked to Lockheed should find themselves defeated by the sparse labelling of dwellings in Ceredigion lanes. After all, one of Lockheed’s claims to fame is as experts in the field of GPS sattelite navigation systems.