Islanders have vowed to fight tooth and nail to halt the closure of Bute's only elderly day centre with a quarter of its population signing a petition urging leaders to abandon the plan.

Staff and families were told last week that Argyll and Bute Health and Social Care Partnership (HSCP) is proposing to axe day services at Thomson Court Dementia Day Care Centre in Rothesay. 

It is the only facility of its kind on Bute that provides specialised care for people living with the disease and essential respite for spouses and relatives.

The plans could also see two other day centres closed on the mainland, in Oban and Dunoon to make savings of around £160,000 a year.

The Herald:

The population of Bute is around 6500 and a quarter of its population - 1625 - are 60 and over. Islanders say elderly care has been gradually eroded over the years.

The island's only care home closed recently as well as a hospital annexe providing beds and a memory club.

There are only seven beds on the island at Thomson Court, which are currently full, which means many elderly people with dementia requiring 24-hour care must leave the island for nursing homes on the mainland.

Islanders say visiting spouses, often frail themselves, are then forced to negotiate 'unreliable' ferries. 

Many do "whatever they can" to provide the care needed at home for as long as possible.


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In a letter leaked to the Herald Fiona David, chief officer of Argyll and Bute HSCP warns that public finances are extremely tight and says it is examining where savings can be made.

A spokesman for the HSCP said no decision will be made this year.

Jean Moffat, head of Bute Community Council said: "Eight years ago we found out that they were literally closing the whole of Thomson Court, so beds and everything.

"I went to a council meeting and I was simply furious because there were processes and procedures to go through and they hadn't bothered.

"We have no care homes on this island - not a single one and it doesn't look like we are ever going to get one.

"The only one we have is Thomson Court and it has only eight beds.

"Most of the elderly here have to go to the mainland. Elderly spouses and partners can have difficult travelling to the mainland to visit and we have no ferries at Chrismas and New Year."

In many cases, she says, the day centre is the only respite carers have.

"What this means is that carers will not be able to cope and people living with dementia will be sent off the island," she said.

"Once more Argyll and Bute have made a decision based on too narrow parameters. "They they don't look at the demographics.

"We are also - in Rothsay itself - one of the most impoverished areas in Scotland."

A meeting will be held tomorrow by Argyll and Bute HSCP to discuss the plans.

"I've already gone through this and we will save it again," added Ms Moffat.

"What we have to be wary of is that in two years they will just do the same thing again."

A total of 1,250 people have signed a petition launched by Leigha McMillan and Heather Sweet, depute manager of a local nursery that organises visits by children to the day centre.

Heather Sweet, depute manager of Apple Tree nursery said: "On a personal level my aunt, who is now deceased, had dementia and she attended Thomson Day Centre every day and we were so grateful as a family that we could get the respite. 

"She was a woman who tended to wander around the island. We knew when she was at Thomson Court, that we knew where she was, that she was being stimulated.

"On a professional basis, I've been taking children to visit people with dementia for a few years.

"We are losing all our elderly facilities, she added. "We used to have a memory club in the island - it closed down.

The Herald: Heather Sweet and Leigha McMillan of Apple Tree nursery which organises childrens' visits to the day centreHeather Sweet and Leigha McMillan of Apple Tree nursery which organises childrens' visits to the day centre (Image: Apple Tree Nursery)

"We had a care home that recently closed down so residents had to go to the mainland.

"We used to have an annexe at the hospital and it also closed down. Thomson Day Centre and residential service is our last hope and for us to lose the day centre would be really heartbreaking and disappointing."

Leigha McMillan, a childcare practitioner at the nursery, added: "I take a group of six kids each week to the centre. It is the highlight of their week.

"Most are in their late eighties and early nineties and I know of some who have been there for more than ten years and you can see the improvement they have within months.

"They get stimulation and half of them probably don't get the chance to see their grandchildren so seeing the Appletree kids - it brings so much joy to them."

One islander accused Argyll and Bute HSCP of "condemning the island's elderly to isolation for the sake of £54,000 per annum".

Jim Pearson, Alzheimer Scotland’s Deputy Chief Executive said: “These services are clearly of critical importance and value to the communities who use them, and closing them could ultimately lead to more people experiencing crisis at home and potentially requiring hospital admission or to move to a care home earlier than may have been necessary.”

A spokesman for the HSCP said: “As an organisation we are continuing to face increasing financial pressures through rising costs and inflation.  

“As a consequence of these pressures a number of savings proposals will be discussed at the IJB including a review of day service provision for older adults at Struan Day Care in Dunoon, Thomson Court Day Care in Rothesay and Lynnside in Oban.  

‘A decision will not be made on closure this year, and a new EQIA (Equality and Socio-Economic Impact Assessment) will be presented to the Board.”