CONCERNS have been raised over plans to 'temporarily close' Furness General Hospital's specialist Dementia unit.

Staff say they were told last week by Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust that the Ramsey Unit, an assessment unit for patients with illnesses such as Dementia, would be moved to Morecambe.

Since then huge concerns have been raised about the impact the move will have on patients and staff, with Barrow and Furness MP Simon Fell writing ‘urgently’ to the trust about the plans.

But now Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust has confirmed that the move will be a temporary measure while the ward is refurbished.

In Cumbria:

Chris Oliver, Chief Operating Officer and Deputy Chief Executive at Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We took over mental health, learning disability and autism services from Cumbria Partnership Foundation Trust in this area in October last year and since that time we have worked hard to improve them.

“We continue to invest in healthcare settings and staff, as well as upgrading and modernising wards and facilities so that we can improve the service and experience for our service users and their families.

“We will be carrying out a full refurbishment of Ramsey Ward and while that work takes place we will be temporarily moving the ward.

“This is a huge undertaking which requires some major planning and logistics which will begin during the financial year 2020-21.

“However, we have started talking to our staff as they’ll be affected and we want time to properly plan for that. Once we have a start date and the full details for the work, we’ll also be talking to service users and their families or carers to work together and ensure they are kept up to date.”

In Cumbria:

Staff members have said they were told the move could happen as soon as December, with many unsure how they and patients’ loved ones will be able to manage the 80-mile round trip.

“They’ve said the Ramsey Unit is moving to Morecambe, there’s a place called Altham Meadows, it’s a big care home and they’ve rented that out until 2023,” said one staff member.

“However they are saying it will be at least a year that it will be there.

“At this time the ward is full, staff can’t organise anything and in four weeks time they could be moving to Morecambe.

“Families will not be able to visit their loved ones, most of our families are elderly, their partners can’t drive and they can’t commit to that distance.

In Cumbria:

“It’s too dangerous to do a 12/13 hour night shift and then drive home.

“The main impact on most patients will be if their families can’t see them, that has a detrimental impact.”

Mr Fell made public a letter he sent to the trust detailing the stress and worry felt by constituents about the matter and called on them to reconsider plans. He suggested the unit be moved to Gill Rise in Ulverston.