Widower pleads with Harrow council to restore dementia services

First published in News Harrow Times: Photograph of the Author by , Chief Reporter

A widower, who lost his wife to dementia, is pleading with Harrow Council to reinstate a service that helped him through his wife’s illness.

Neville Hughes, whose wife Nina died two years ago, is petitioning for Admiral Nurses to be restored in Harrow, after it became the only borough to lose its funding. The service helps the family of people with dementia and tries to prolong the time patients spend at home, rather than in care.

The two Admiral Nurses who served Harrow were initially paid for by Dementia UK. But in 2010, the service was passed on to the council, in the hope it would be taken over by Harrow Primary Care Trust (PCT). However, when the PCT withdrew its funding, the council said it could not continue paying for the service, which was stopped in January 2011.

The 82-year-old, who is from South Harrow, said that the borough was in “serious danger” of being blacklisted by Dementia UK – even though it has the highest level of dementia patients in England.

He said: “Most people don’t realise that dementia is a life-threatening illness and so perhaps don’t realise how vital Admiral Nurses are.

“There’s a massive stigma with dementia. Harrow was the only borough to lose its funding. Why?

“I asked the council if they would make a Macmillan nurse redundant, and they answered they wouldn’t dream of it. Why then have they made our Admiral Nurses redundant?

“I feel like there’s a lack of in-depth knowledge by the decision maker. They have offered short-term help for people affected with dementia, but that’s too narrow minded in my view. People affected need long-term care.

“I’m pleased this is going to be discussed in cabinet, and am keeping my fingers crossed. That’s a step in the right direction.”

A statement from NHS Harrow, said: "NHS Harrow is committed to leading a review of the current and development of a new Harrow dementia care pathway, in conjunction with Harrow Local Authority, to ensure a whole system effective provision for the population of Harrow.

"This work has commenced and there will be engagement with local key stakeholders, including Mr Hughes, in the development of the services and pathways."

Paul Najsarek, corporate director of adult services for Harrow Council, said: “Guidance is that local authorities are not able to provide health services, and do not have a duty to provide an Admiral Nurse service.

“Although Admiral Nurses are primarily a health service, they do carry out tasks which are not specifically health tasks.

“NHS Harrow agreed that they are the appropriate funders of Admiral Nurses. Harrow Council went through a protracted process with the local voluntary sector, which identified commissioning intentions.

“The council decommissioned Harrow Admiral Nurse Service just over a year ago, as it was agreed that when allocating funds to services, those with a social care focus would be our priority. This did not extend to Admiral Nurses, so it was not appropriate to continue funding a health focussed service.

“We were already providing significant resources to support carers’ organisations in Harrow. These organisations provide practical and preventative support to all carers, which include information, advice and education.

“We are working closely with colleagues in NHS Harrow to consider the needs of our residents with regards to dementia services.”

The matter will be discussed at Harrow Council's cabinet meeting on March 8.

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