Carers speak out over Sidmouth’s Stowford Lodge

Fears expressed over future of respite day care at Sidmouth’s Stowford centre

CARERS whose spouses use day care facilities at Stowford Lodge, Sidmouth, are upset over rumours it may be closing.

A concerned East Devon MP Hugo Swire has promised to make urgent investigations after being told of the frustrations of three Sidmouth-based carers of partners with either Altzheimer’s Disease or dementia, who want to know what the future of the centre will be.

Expressing fears over the lack of information offered to allay concerns, they say even staff don’t know what is happening.

They believe there is a growing need for respite care in the town and people are not being admitted because the Devon Parnership NHS Trust wants to run the facility down prior to closing it.

However the Trust says it is no longer commissioned to provide a day service there.

Doubts were expressed after a regional carers meeting this week heard news that Seaton day care centre was closing down and a place from which the team of psychiatric nurses could operate was being sought, said one Sidmouth carer.

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She said: “We had Hugo Swire talking about re-opening Stowford Lodge as it was with respite beds and now it seems they (Trust) are going to close it.”

Although her husband cannot use the centre, she says people are desperate to get relatives a place there but are told it is not taking on anyone else.

Sidmouth resident John Doe is in no doubt that it could be a “sneaky” way to get the centre closed by making a case out that it is no longer a viable proposition because of the small number of ‘clients’ using it.

“Why are people not being referred to Stowford Lodge when there is a great need in the district because this type of dementia is not going away?” he asked.

When his wife began using the centre three years ago he said 12-15 people were in a session, now it was not unusual to have just two or three there all day.

“The local populace should know what is going on. To my mind it is a very wasted facility and in much more demand than people are led to believe.

“From the community point of view hundreds of people in Sidmouth and district would benefit from this type of facility.”

He said carers whose partners were suffering from mid to severe forms of mental illnesses needed respite care.

“My life has ended, I don’t have a life,” said the former precision engineer.

A third carer, whose husband uses the centre, asked: “Is Stowford Lodge going to be closed as a day centre and will relatives be given enough notice as they have to find alternatives?”

She said the respite care enabled her to shop, do washing and other household chores.

Mr Swire said: “I am very alarmed to hear of the rumour that Stowford Lodge’s future may be in question.

“I am already concerned about the lack of facilities for the elderly, particularly those suffering from dementia, and Stowford Lodge provides much needed respite for carers.

“I find the news perplexing, coming on the same day that the Government announces there will be more money for mental health and I shall be making some urgent enquiries.”

A Trust spokesman said: “We met with the local forum last week and had a very open discussion about the future of mental health services for older people in the area.

“We fully understand how passionately people feel about the need for a local service, and appreciate their strength of feeling about Stowford Lodge in particular.

“At present, Stowford Lodge provides an office base for our Older People’s Mental Health Team working in East Devon and a ‘clinical space’ for group work and day treatments.

“There is also a day service for a small number of people which is gradually reducing as we are no longer commissioned to provide it.

“One issue that we are especially keen for local people to understand is that Stowford Lodge is the building, not the service. Our focus has to be on the provision of a wide range of services, including high quality day treatment and group work that can be locally accessed by as many as people as possible.

“We also have to provide a suitable office base for our staff. In the long-term, however, Stowford Lodge may not be the best place from which to provide these services.

“We have given a commitment to meet again with the forum as soon as we have further information and are looking forward to doing so.”