Health minister visits threatened dementia ward

Health Minister Norman Lamb visited Solihull Hospital to observe Ward 10, the dementia ward which local MP Lorely Burt is campaigning to save from closure.


Along with local Lib Dems Councillor Martin Hewings and party chair Ade Adeyemo, the minister met staff and discussed plans to integrate specialist dementia care with physical healthcare.

Plans to close Ward 10 in March were postponed following an intervention by local campaigners including Lib Dem MP Lorely Burt. It is now due for closure in July but when Lib Dem campaigners visited with Mr Lamb they saw a full ward with no evidence of winding down.

Ward 10 provides specialist care and beds to patients who are in hospital with other ailments but also suffer from dementia. It offers patients activities to keep their minds engaged, including films, music, and dancing to old classics. Elmdon councillor Martin Hewings engaged one patient in a dance.

Consultant Physician Dr Robert Wears, who manages Ward 10, said, "We are all very grateful for the interest shown in Ward 10 by local MPs, and we were particularly honoured to welcome the minister responsible for dementia care to our ward.

"It is heartening to see that the valuable work we do is recognised, and we will carry on working hard to provide the best we possibly can to people in Solihull who depend on our services."

Mrs Burt said, "I am grateful to Norman for coming to see for himself the amazing work staff at Ward 10 do for patients.

"It's clear that no plan is in place to replace Ward 10 and I am fearful for the future of these very vulnerable people.

"The deadline for closure, even though it was extended to July, is clearly unrealistic. I am calling for Ward 10 to be given one more year to wind down and switch to an integrated replacement service."

Mr Adeyemo said, "As a local resident I am keen to make sure that everyone living in our area can access the best healthcare when they need it.

"This is especially true for patients suffering with dementia and we must ensure that they get treatment that meets their particular needs."

Mr Lamb said, "In government, the Liberal Democrats are championing better care and support for people with mental health conditions, and have legislated for 'parity of esteem' - complete equality - between mental health and physical health. I want to make sure that people with mental health problems get the support they need to continue to live safely and well-supported in the community.

"In most circumstances, hospital is not the best environment for someone with a mental health condition. Most people would much prefer to be looked after properly surrounded by their friends and family, in the community.

"However, when people with dementia need to spend time in hospital as a result of other health conditions, it is incredibly important that they receive care and support which recognises the special needs arising from their dementia. This needs to be the case across hospitals - and in other parts of our health and care systems. There is no 'one size fits all' approach to achieving this - it is important that local health organisations are able to find the best way to provide good care for the communities they serve.

"Ward 10 at Solihull hospital was originally opened in the winter of 2012/13 to provide specialist flexible capacity. Solihull Clinical Commissioning Group agreed to use extra government funding for winter pressures to keep the ward operational throughout the 2013/14 winter for the same purpose.

"I know Lorely Burt has campaigned hard on health issues for people in Solihull over many years. It is important that she has drawn attention to the need to ensure effective care and support for people with dementia when they are in hospital. I enjoyed the opportunity to hear from the hospital today what steps they are now taking to ensure that the right care continues to be available in future for people with dementia."

The petition to save Ward 10 is available online for signing here

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