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Hampshire night care service questioned
CONCERNS have been raised for the future of a county council-run night care service for vulnerable pensioners living at home.
Carers call on the elderly in difficulty at night, take them to the toilet so they don’t lie in soiled bedclothes, prompt them to take medication, settle dementia sufferers - and comfort the dying.
But according to Tory council chiefs there is currently no demand for the service and two remaining carers are being paid to stay at home although officially on call.
Winchester grandfather-of-six Terry Lister, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, raised the alarm after his night care was switched from the council service to a private agency. He needs carers to wash, dress and put him to bed.
His social care is funded by the NHS.
As previously reported, he is now put to bed at 8.30pm instead of 10.30pm and can be in bed for up to 16 hours a day, including a two-hour rest to prevent pressure sores from his wheelchair.
County chiefs insist the service is still available for those in “substantial” or “critical” need who meet the criteria.
Cllr Felicity Hindson, executive member for adult social care, denied the council had made any cut in the service.
She said: “The night cover service remains available for adult service referrals and the staff remain in post.”
However the number referred to the community response night service has plunged from 126 in 2011 to only 12 this financial year, it has emerged.
The service was set up to provide short-term crisis intervention of up to six weeks to prevent hospital admissions and support early discharge.
It was jointly funded by the county council and Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust but health managers pulled the plug last March, citing under-use and a structural shake-up. Now it has emerged the council is no longer accepting health referrals.
Despite denying any posts had been shed, the council admitted there were five carers on the team before last May compared to the current two.
Two carers have moved back to a day service and one left. The posts have not been filled and the council says it has no plans to change this.
Mr Lister, who lives on St Giles Hill, said: “Whether the county cares for me or not there is a wider issue. What about the vulnerable elderly people who need help at night but don’t know of the service’s existence or cannot ask because they are on their last legs?
“I am quite sure people would call on this service if it was more widely known. Bedridden people don’t have a voice and can so easily be crossed-off.
He added: “ The NHS will suffer more bed-blocking if the service is lost.”
Tim Cutter, branch secretary for Unison at the county council, said: “If there were five carers and now there are two that is a reduction in posts - and a reduced night care service to the elderly.”