Heartbroken relatives speak out as Sheffield NHS dementia care home residents face eviction

Happier times: Joanne Stephenson with her dad Anthony and Alf Rhodes with wife Hazel. Today, both Joanne and Alf (bottom row) are fighting to keep their loved ones in Birch Avenue after NHS bosses said funding to care for dementia sufferers Anthony and Hazel was being pulled. Both could be evicted and moved to another care home.
Happier times: Joanne Stephenson with her dad Anthony and Alf Rhodes with wife Hazel. Today, both Joanne and Alf (bottom row) are fighting to keep their loved ones in Birch Avenue after NHS bosses said funding to care for dementia sufferers Anthony and Hazel was being pulled. Both could be evicted and moved to another care home.

Sheffield NHS care home residents with a severe form of dementia are facing eviction unless relatives pay £950 a week, families claim.

Relatives of Hazel Rhodes, aged 73, and Anthony Hogan, 79, were told by NHS bosses their funding is being taken away after a ‘patient review’ at Birch Avenue Care Home in Chapeltown.

Sue Harding (front) and Rita Brookes (back row, centre) have been campaigning alongside the relatives of the care home residents

Sue Harding (front) and Rita Brookes (back row, centre) have been campaigning alongside the relatives of the care home residents

Heartbroken families have until Friday to either appeal, pay the cash to stay or move their relatives to another care home.

One relative said Sheffield NHS Clinical Commissioning Group had resorted to ‘bullying tactics’ and claimed health chiefs were demanding payment during the appeal process which could take up to three months – meaning they would have to pay nearly £12,000 to keep their relatives in the home.

The plans have been criticised by Sheffield MP Angela Smith who called the move by the CCG ‘deeply troubling’ and demanded health bosses to drop the eviction threats.

Campaigners are now exploring the possibility of a legal challenge.

Alf with wife Hazel before her diagnosis

Alf with wife Hazel before her diagnosis

Passionate angler Anthony Hogan loved spending time in his Lincolnshire caravan with Janet, his wife of 47 years.

But the grandad-of-two, from Wincobank, was diagnosed with dementia in 2011 and could not be looked after at home after his condition deteriorated.

The 79-year-old spent seven months at Grenoside Grange Hospital and doctors said only NHS-run Woodland View in Norton or Birch Avenue in Chapeltown would be suitable for his needs.

His daughter Joanne Stephenson, 45, said Anthony went through a gruelling four-hour assessment and the nurse who carried it out ‘couldn’t give a valid reason’ why he no longer qualified for funding.

Joanne with dad Anthony before diagnosis

Joanne with dad Anthony before diagnosis

Joanne said: “My dad is nearing the end of his life with this horrible illness and the fact they still want to move him out is nothing short of disgraceful.

“He’s been there nearly five years and there was nothing said of a funding review when he first went in there. I can remember going in Birch Avenue for the first time getting a bit upset when I said to myself, this is where he will die.

“My mum is very, very worried about it. She tries not to show it but she’s really depressed about it.

“What makes this worse is mum is being forced to pay the cash during the appeal process and if she wins she gets it back with interest but this could take up to three months.

Joanne Stephenson is hoping to keep her dad Anthony at Birch Avenue. Picture: Dean Atkins/The Star

Joanne Stephenson is hoping to keep her dad Anthony at Birch Avenue. Picture: Dean Atkins/The Star

“It’s bullying tactics and it would make anyone think twice about going through the appeal.”

Alf Rhodes, 83, from Hackenthorpe, goes to see his beloved wife Hazel every day. They were married in 1971 but in 2008, the couple received the terrible news that Hazel had Alzheimer’s.

Ten years on, Alf makes the daily trip to Chapeltown to help her eat and keep her company. But with her heartbreaking condition, she does not know who he is or why he is there.

Health bosses said Hazel was due for a funding review and, a few weeks later, Alf received a letter through the post saying funding had been stopped.

“I’ve got nothing against the staff at Birch Avenue, they’re absolutely wonderful. I can’t put into words how good they are – they are amazing.

“But I’m really sad about it, really depressed about the whole thing. I don’t think it’s right what they’re doing – it’s out of order,” Alf said.

Alf Rhodes makes the trip from Hackenthorpe to Chapeltown everyday to see his wife Hazel who has a severe form of dementia. Picture: Dean Atkins/The Star

Alf Rhodes makes the trip from Hackenthorpe to Chapeltown everyday to see his wife Hazel who has a severe form of dementia. Picture: Dean Atkins/The Star

“Until the day Hazel dies she will have dementia. She doesn’t know who I am, she doesn’t know who her children are. Why can’t they give her some dignity?

“I can’t afford that kind of money, it’s just too much.

“I fought to get her into that home and I’ll have to fight again.”

Sue Harding, a spokeswoman for the Birch Avenue families, said Sheffield CCG bosses said in a 2012 document if residents lost their funding they would not be moved.

“This is a complete disgrace. The process is frightening people and relatives have said they feel threatened and bullied,” she said.

“I can’t believe in our country today when you get a right of appeal they are going to charge them.

“Surely this is a perverting the course of natural justice? I never thought I’d say that.

“I’m shocked how the CCG are behaving – I’m really angry by it all.

“The CCG have passed the buck and are now washing their hands of the situation. Where are their hearts?”

Penistone and Stocksbridge MP Angela Smith, whose constituency includes Birch Avenue, said: “This business is disgraceful.

“The CCG has not communicated or worked with politicians and relatives’ families in the spirit one would expect when dealing with matters as sensitive as this.

“As far as I am concerned it has undermined its own work on developing a new strategy for dementia services in the city by behaving in this high-handed manner.

“I am calling on the CCG to drop its threat to stop funding to residents at Birch Avenue and to meet with residents’ families and myself as a matter of urgency.”

Mandy Philbin, acting chief nurse at NHS Sheffield Clinical Commissioning Group said, “We cannot comment on individual cases but the assessments being carried out are the continuing healthcare reviews that are happening across all care and nursing homes nationally, as well as for people in their own homes. These are normal assessments that anybody with continuing healthcare has completed.

“They should normally be carried out every year to check whether patients’ needs have changed and make sure they are receiving the right care. This information also helps us to make sure we commission services appropriately to meet people’s needs and make sure they are being cared for in the right place.

“All CCGs follow national guidance for determining eligibility for continuing healthcare and by using a national framework it provides fair and consistent access to NHS funding across England.

“Should an individual get a period of continuing healthcare funding then all their identified health and social care needs will be funded in line with their local CCG funding/resource policy.

“The CCG may fund continuing healthcare, fast track (end of life care), funded nursing care or towards a joint package of care with the Local Authority.

“We encourage families involved in the assessments to speak with their continuing healthcare case workers, Age UK or the Alzheimer’s Society if they want more advice on the process.”

BIRCH AVENUE BACKGROUND

Sheffield Health & Social Care NHS Foundation Trust said back in January 2017 they were pulling out of running the home after operating on a £300,000 loss for two years paid from reserves.

Sheffield NHS Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), the body responsible for funding the care of the patients, said it cannot find the six-figure sum needed to cover a shortfall and offered the services out to private bidders. No one so far has taken up the contract.

The home has 40 residents, all with severe forms of dementia.

Penistone & Stocksbridge MP Angela Smith has slammed the funding threats

Penistone & Stocksbridge MP Angela Smith has slammed the funding threats