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Monthly News Bulletin

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Day Centres in Cash Crisis

A BID to NHS Dumfries and Galloway to immediately fund cash-strapped volunteer-run day centres for the elderly in Stranraer and Newton Stewart has been rejected by health chiefs.

At a special meeting of the Wigtown Area Committee Councillor Willie Scobie called to discuss the ongoing funding crisis facing the two day centres.

He said their work actually saved the NHS vast amounts of money and, as such, the local health board should make a cash contribution. Without funding the Stranraer Coronation Day Centre and Newton Stewart’s Riverside Day Centre — which between them have more than 270 members — are facing a budget crisis.

The Health Board, represented at the meeting by Chairman John Ross and Chief Executive John Burns, had last year decided to end a £15,000-a-year contribution made to the running of the Coronation Day Centre in Stranraer.

Coupled with reduced core funding from Dumfries and Galloway Council, the day centres, which rely heavily on their own fund-raising activities to keep running, are facing a serious cash crisis which threatens their future.

Health officials who had considered the issue concluded it was not appropriate for the board to make a financial contribution to the running of day centres until a review looking at their role was complete.

Mr Ross told the meeting, there was recognition of the work day centres undertook but the board wanted to carry out more work on the role they play and, as such, a review was set to report back by next summer.

Several councillors felt the timescale for the review was unacceptably long, especially against the background of attempts to secure a debate with the health board on the issue over the past year and a half.

Mr Scobie called on NHS Dumfries and Galloway to make an interim payment of £15,000 to the Coronation Day Centre and a similar financial gesture to the Riverside Day Centre, which it had never funded before, pending the review reporting back in recognition of the work they carry out.

Mr Scobie claimed the £15,000 contribution to the Coronation Day Centre was the result of an agreement previously drawn up, although Mr Ross maintained that it had only ever been an ad hoc contribution made on a year-by-year basis until last year.

Responding to initial advice by health officials that there was no evidence of medical or clinical value provided by day centres, Councillor Scobie said the support day centres gave to the elderly was saving the NHS and the Council a vast amount of money in preventing hospital admissions.

Councillor Ian Dick said he was surprised the NHS took a view that it was not responsible for helping fund the work of day centres. He said: “You have to spend to save. If you don’t, it will put a further burden on the NHS.”

The committee heard that it would cost the NHS between £80 to £100 a day just to provide a bed for a patient without the cost of clinical care taken into account. That works out at about £3000 a month.

Whilst Mr Ross said he did not disagree about the value of day centres and had witnessed first hand the work carried out by the Coronation Day Centre, he could not reverse the Board’s decision at the meeting.

Mr Burns said he would take on board the wish that the review should be carried out as quickly as possible.

The Council is proposing a reduced funding contribution which, he said, if that holds, would mean the 170 people the day centre was looking after now might have to be looked after by the NHS and Council social services.

Commenting after, Evelyn Barber, Coronation Day Centre secretary, said without the funding redundancies could follow and a vital service would be threatened.

She said: “The centre provides health benefits as well as social benefits.

“The grant pays for essential services like baths, an extra person in the kitchen who prepares special diets, and it helps us provide a Chiropody service.

“It’s preventative care too because members are in an environment that keeps them healthy in body and mind — and that’s important.” Mrs Barber added while pensioners contributed most money to the centre, it needed help from the council and the NHS.

Riverside Day Centre Chairman Tom Murray said the Day Centre had 170 members from all over the Machars and that there was no question that it was saving Health Board money.

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