Local News
South Norfolk
  Dementia Services in Norfolk

This speech was given in the House of Commons on 27 October 2004

Mr. Richard Bacon (South Norfolk) (Con): I congratulate the hon. Member for North Norfolk (Norman Lamb) on securing this debate, and I pass on to him the thanks of Mr. Iain Dale for having done so; I know that Mr. Dale secured a meeting at Rebecca house on a cross-party basis to express the widespread concerns of residents and relatives about the position being taken by the trust.

I want to highlight for the Minister a fact to which the hon. Gentleman alluded - this is not an isolated case, and the same situation is widespread across Norfolk. Indeed, there are five such units, including Cygnet house in Long Stratton in my constituency, which I understand the Minister visited today. I also understand that some friendly local fox hunters were present to greet him, although I had nothing to do with that. I hope that he found the visit congenial, notwithstanding some of the people by whom he was greeted.

Cygnet house is one of the five units for the elderly across Norfolk. It has units catering for long-term residential care for the elderly mentally ill, and it also offers respite care. The number of units can vary from day to day. On 25 October, it had 11 residents, compared with 14 in Rebecca house. Adding Ellacombe, Yew Tree and Laburnam, which are located in Norwich, produces a total of 49 places on that date - a number that will fall to some 28, as the hon. Gentleman said, under the proposals.

That raises a number of concerns. First, some facilities, especially at Cygnet house, are very local to people in South Norfolk, for whom it is not always easy to get into Norwich, especially when they are elderly people. The Minister will have seen today how large my constituency is; it covers some 350 sq miles. At the moment, Cygnet house provides easy access for relatives, and there is no doubt that Norwich is more difficult to visit.

In addition to the question of access, there is the quality of care that is provided. The father of a councillor in my constituency, Councillor Martin Wilby, has been at Cygnet house for two and a half years, and has received excellent care, both physically and mentally. Mr. Wilby senior has been in homes of various kinds for some 10 years, but his time at Cygnet house has been the best, according to Councillor Wilby. Mr. Wilby senior spent some time at Hellesdon hospital in Norwich, but there was a high staff turnover and the care could be patchy. Cygnet house, which has a low staff turnover and a higher and more consistent quality of care, is in my view and that of many local people better for residents.

The hon. Member for North Norfolk also alluded to cost, which is the other issue that I want to raise. I have a copy of the report to the board of the Norfolk and Waveney Mental Health Partnership NHS trust, which refers to potential options for Cygnet house, including the refurbishment of the facility and its use as a care unit for the whole of central Norfolk. However, the report states that if that option were pursued, clinical and out-of-hours cover, as well as the high revenue costs, would raise concerns. On the face of it, it seems that the change is a cost-cutting exercise, with not enough thought being given to the needs of elderly people with mental health problems who need specialist care, and it does not seem right to make relatives pick up the tab, again.

I strongly endorse the point made by the hon. Member for North Norfolk that Norfolk's demographic profile is old and that in many cases it is getting older - people move to many parts of my constituency in order to retire - so dementia services will grow, not decline, in importance. There are serious concerns about whether the trust's proposal is the right way forward. I have asked Pat Holman, the chief executive of the partnership, to reconsider the closure of Cygnet house, and I look forward to the Minister's reply.



Go to top

Back to
Speech Index