Charity warns carers could burn out if hospital services are removed

Sally Edwards with her petition to keep Wanstead Hospital's Heronwood and Galleon wards open in Snar

Sally Edwards with her petition to keep Wanstead Hospital's Heronwood and Galleon wards open in Snaresbrook, London on September 16, 2014. Photo: Arnaud Stephenson - Credit: Photo: Arnaud Stephenson

The director of a carers’ charity has warned carers could be “on their knees” if healthcare changes are motivated by cuts.

Glynis Donovan, who runs Redbridge Carers Support Service, has warned against piling pressure on spouses and family members.

The Redbridge, Havering and Barking and Dagenham Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) are currently consulting on plans to cut the number of intermediate care beds – which provide 24-hour care and rehab for people after operations or illness – from 104 to 40, able to expand to 61 if needed.

The units in Wanstead Hospital and Gray’s Court, Dagenham, would be closed, with the beds based at a central unit at King George Hospital in Goodmayes.

Two new community-based teams have also been introduced, visiting patients in their own homes.

“In the long run, if it’s cost-cutting, it will backfire,” said Mrs Donovan.

“Health and social care will be having to provide the services for carers who just have burnt out.”

Most Read

She said the organisation would respond to the consultation from a carers’ perspective.

“It’s great to avoid hospital if you can,” she added.

But Mrs Donovan, who is also co-chairman of Redbridge Healthwatch, said the two community teams which are part of the wards’ replacement did not provide 24-hour care like Wanstead Hospital does – also providing a break for carers.

“If there’s more care happening in the home, then carers need to be supported to cope,” she said.

“As rehab tends to be for the older people, then their partners or family members tend to be older.”

Sally and Derek Edwards, who live in Cranbourne Avenue, Wanstead, both care for their elderly mothers.

Derek said he did not believe his 90-year-old mother, Anne, would have lived as long without the care she received Wanstead Hospital’s Heronwood and Galleon units following a serious gastro-intestinal operation.

“If she had gone straight home, I don’t think she would have survived that,” he said.

He said the rehabilitation unit – which Anne has been in three times in the past eight years – had given her the chance to continue to live independently.

And Sally, who previously worked as a healthcare professional but said she was speaking as a “tired carer”, said: “These units are absolutely needed. They are marvellous.”

She fears the reduction in the number of beds would lead to those needing 24-hour intermediate care not being able to access it.

“People have to be given a chance to rehabilitate and to go home, which is where they want to be,” she said.

A spokesman for the CCGs said the groups had spoken to carers groups and patients while designing services.

He said: “We included patient and carer groups such as Healthwatch when designing these services before piloting them.

“There is no sign carers experience additional pressure or worry.

“The CCG is committed to supporting carers and we are working on a programme for frail elders to develop this further.”