Dementia care centre starved of finance

A SPECIALIST care service for people with dementia in Inverness is facing a crippling £110,000 deficit this year — all because Highland Council refuses to pay its share.

Amid fears over the future of Cameron House — currently home to 30 patients — the council has been exposed as the only local authority in Scotland which refuses to provide its full amount for the care provided.

Now, CrossReach, the Church of Scotland charity which runs the facility on Culduthel Road, has criticised the council’s attitude in refusing to increase its funding, which is calculated by a formula, and has demanded urgent talks.

The charity says it cannot continue to fund the deficit but held back from saying the financial shortfall could force the home to close.

The house, which scored highly in the Care Commission’s last inspection, is one of six similar homes in the country which provide specialist care for people who have dementia or Alzheimer’s.

However, Helen Thomson, CrossReach’s head of dementia services, says Cameron House has never been properly supported by the council and claims the authority falls short in its provision compared to other local authorities which support similar homes.

More money is needed for full-time specialist dementia care compared to standard nursing or residential homes, according to the charity, because of increased costs including a higher staff-to-patient ratio.

“Highland Council has always fallen below what other local authorities have provided,” said Ms Thomson. “It’s the attitude which gets me. We’re providing specialist dementia care but I had somebody from the council say they were not interested in the “silly bits”.

“Most other authorities are very supportive and all of our care homes are very well respected.”

CrossReach currently receives £482 per patient, per week, from the council. However, the local authorities which cover two of its homes in Renfrewshire offering the same specialist care, contribute £577 and £586 respectively.

“We’re not in the business of making a profit,” stressed Ms Thomson. “We need to break even. We’re governed by the Church of Scotland’s social care council, but it can’t sustain this level of deficit.”

There are around 3000 people in the Highlands who have dementia but that figure is set to double by 2025, according to Alzheimer Scotland.

It is a situation which concerns Highland Senior Citizens Network spokeswoman Sheila MacKay, who was “absolutely appalled” at the predicament faced by CrossReach. She is calling on the council to immediately provide the funds required.

“They should fight tooth and nail for this,” she said. “I personally know people who have family or friends at the Culduthel unit and the standard of care is superb. Dementia is a dreadful disease and people who have it need all the support they can get. When you consider the things Highland Council spend money on, this is an essential service. Send them back to the drawing board!”

Ms Thomson has written to all 80 Highland councillors asking for support and one of them, Inverness Ness-side member John Finnie, said he wanted a meeting to be held as soon as possible. “I’ve been in touch with CrossReach about the concerns they have,” he said.

“I’ve spoken to Councillor Margaret Davidson, chairwoman of the housing and social work committee, and Harriet Dempster, director of social work, about organising a meeting in a matter of weeks.”

The council had not responded at the time of going to press.