Change to inpatient beds for people with dementia in County Durham and Darlington

Specialist inpatient services for people with dementia living in County Durham and Darlington are to be centralised at Auckland Park Hospital in Bishop Auckland.

Specialist inpatient services for people with dementia living in County Durham and Darlington are to be centralised at Auckland Park Hospital in Bishop Auckland.

The move follows a 12 week public consultation held earlier this year.

The local NHS consulted on options for the reconfiguration and location of inpatient services that would provide the best possible environment for patients, whilst reducing costs and maintaining the same number of beds.

Currently the Trust provides 30 assessment and treatment beds across three 10-bed wards (one at Bowes Lyon Unit in Durham and two at Auckland Park Hospital in Bishop Auckland). 

The local NHS clinical commissioning groups (Darlington CCG, Durham Dales, Easington and Sedgefield CCG and North Durham CCG) consulted on three options for consolidating beds across two 15-bed wards. The options were to:

  • locate both wards (one male and one female) at Auckland Park Hospital at Bishop Auckland and close Picktree Ward in Durham
  • provide separate male and female wards on separate sites (one ward at Bishop Auckland and one ward at Durham and close one of the wards at Bishop Auckland)
  • provide a mixed sex ward at Bishop Auckland and a mixed sex ward in Durham and close one of the wards at Bishop Auckland.

Over 100 people contributed to the consultation by attending public meetings and completing questionnaires.

There were two main issues debated during the consultation. People discussed the benefits of separate wards for men and women when caring for patients with advanced dementia who can be socially and sexually disinhibited, and the importance of having locally based services.

People recognised the importance of both but there was a difference of opinion about which was more important with no clear preference.

Dr Neil  O’Brien, chief clinical officer at North Durham CCG, representing the three CCGs said: “There were strong feelings on both sides of the debate but no clear mandate from local people on a preferred option.

“We gave all the feedback we received careful consideration and we believe that centralising inpatient beds in Bishop Auckland is the best option for people with dementia. This was also the clinically preferred option.

“However, we recognise the impact this will have on some families. We understand the importance of being able to maintain contact with loved ones when they are in hospital and we will do all we can to support those affected by the change.”

Patrick Scott, director of operations for County Durham and Darlington, said: “Most people with dementia receive the support they need in the familiar surroundings of their own home environment.

“Some people, often those with very complex needs, need to spend short periods in hospital and we also believe that single sex wards is the best option for these vulnerable people.

“Maintaining regular contact with families and involving them in the care of loved ones who have dementia is extremely important in helping to manage their illness. We recognise that this will mean additional travel for some families from the north and north east of County Durham.

“We have given a firm commitment to support people who have further to travel to visit family members. This will include helping with transport and the additional cost of travelling to Bishop Auckland, as well as introducing more flexible visiting times.”

Inpatient services will move to Bishop Auckland gradually over the next few weeks to minimise the disruption to current inpatients.   

A copy of the full consultation report is available here.