Plans for a £5m flagship centre for dementia care have been scrapped.
The proposal for a ‘centre of excellence’ for the whole of Lancashire – based at the Bowgreave Rise care home site near Garstang – was announced by the former Conservative bosses at Lancashire County Council, and funds were approved at a budget meeting in February this year.
But since Labour took charge at County Hall in May, new council chiefs have reviewed their options for the centre, amid worries the site will not be affordable and could be unsuitable for purpose. That has created worries over dementia care and the future of Bowgreave Rise and its residents.
Former council leader Coun Geoff Driver had said he felt proper emphasis was not being put on dementia care, and that the new facility would bridge the gap between sheltered housing and full residential care to help families in “an extremely distressing situation”.
It was hoped building work would begin from April at the rear of Bowgreave Rise, a dated and under-used dementia care home that would then be demolished.
At a meeting last week, the LCC cabinet were told in a report: “A further initial study has identified that this site is unlikely to be suitable for a scheme of the nature proposed, while the initial scheme ambition is likely not to be affordable within the available budget.
“Options are now being examined to achieve the maximum benefit from this resource, potentially through a joint scheme with Health or supporting the development of Extra Care facilities and proposals will be reported to the cabinet member once they have been developed.”
Coun Driver said: “I can’t understand it at all. The site is ideal and the money is there. I didn’t pluck the £5m figure out of thin air - it’s what the officers came up with.
“I can only think that the current administration don’t see it as their highest priority, which is a great shame.
“The problem of dementia is growing in Lancashire and almost every family is touched by it. It was important to get this built and have a shining example of care for the rest of the country.”
Coun Driver also raised worries about the future of the current Bowgreaves Rise site, which has been earmarked for closure a number of times.
He said: “The whole issue was brought to my attention when we were looking through the financial results of homes for the elderly owned by the council. Bowgreave Rise stood out like a sore thumb because it was consistently under-occupied.
“Officers were recommending closing it, and before a drastic decision like that was taken, I went up to have a look. I found that love and care oozed out of the staff, but the building was very tired and needed a lot of money spending on it to bring it up to standard, but it had beautiful grounds.
“Officers told me it would cost around £3.5m to do properly, so it made sense to spend a little more and have a centre of excellence there instead, which could incorporate other parts of the community.”
He added: “My worry, other than losing a great opportunity, is what will happen to Bowgreave Rise.”
A spokesman for the Alzheimer’s Society said: “We always say that specialist dementia care centres are hugely important, as they provide the person-centred care needed in communities.”
Lancashire County Council were unable to provide an official comment on the decision or the future of Bowgreave Rise yesterday. However, a County Hall spokesman said the money was still available, and council chiefs were still committed to high quality dementia care.
Council leader Jennifer Mein was also unavailable for comment yesterday.