Borders’ ‘Care Migrants’ Concern

A plush £6m nursing home which would provide around 40 new jobs in Coldstream should not be built because it would attract elderly English people wanting free personal care, it has been claimed. ‘Care migrants’ would be a huge problem for the NHS and social work services if the home was built, a Scottish Borders Council meeting was told. However the statement caused outrage at the development and building control committee. “These are ridiculous views,” blasted Coldstream councillor Jock Law. “They are saying it is going to cause an influx of people to Scotland wanting free care and they are making out that they would not be able to cope. At the same time new houses are being built all over the Borders and it is houses that attract people, not old folks’ homes.”

“I am not happy with the statements made by the NHS or the social work department and I just can’t get my head round why they are so against this.”

The report before the committee stated that the Health Board had noted that a development of that size would increase demand on the local doctors and nurses while increased support could also be required from acute and emergency care services.

“The location so close to the English border could potentially attract an influx of patients from that country who they understand would be eligible for elements of free care provided by the local authority,” the report said.

Councillor Law said that view was bad enough but what “really got up his nose” was the statement that there were already concerns that the current health care team and social work services may not even have the capacity to support existing health care needs.

“I have sat for the past 18 months in meetings about the closure of the cottage hospital where the NHS gave a guarantee that there would not be any problems meeting needs if the hospital was closed. Now when it suits them they are turning round and saying there are concerns about meeting needs. Are they admitting they were wrong before?”

Councillor Law also took issue with the social work department’s view that there would only be a need for an extra 15 beds in the area.

The outline planning application from Trinity Medical Properties Ltd is for a 60 bed nursing home at Ladiesfield on the western edge of Coldstream.

“They are going to be building hundreds of houses in the area so I find it hard to believe that there is only going to be demand for 15 beds,” said Councillor Law. “We’re not talking about a mammoth building of 600 beds – it is only 60.”

He pointed out that Coldstream had just lost 14 beds with the closure of the cottage hospital plus a further 22 when Trafalgar House was closed. Existing nursing homes in the area were in old, Victorian buildings which were expensive to maintain and run, he said.

A new nursing home would provide around 40 jobs and would be good for the Borders as well as Coldstream, said Councillor Law.

The committee also heard that the applicants, Trinity Medical, were surprised at the comments made by NHS Borders as they had previously understood that the NHS was supportive of the proposal in the event of the closure of Coldstream Hospital.

Coldstream and District Community Council also support the application, particuarly after the closure of the cottage hospital only yards from the proposed site. The community council said they understood the care home proposal would include a day care centre and that there would be provision for the Health Trust to use beds in the home when necessary as there would no longer be any NHS beds in the town.

However, Brian Frater, head of planning and building standards, recommended refusal on the grounds that the site lies outwith the defined settlement boundary of Coldstream and that an over-riding need for the facility has not been identified or substantiated.

The application was already continued from the June meeting and councillors have now voted 6-5 to continue it again for more detailed information about the assessment of local need.