Council plans to revamp care provision in Bolton were criticised as a host of “ifs, buts and maybes” at a packed public debate at Westhoughton Town Council.
Town hall bosses conceded that their plans to axe intermediate and respite round-the-clock care at Winifred Kettle Community Care Centre would unsettle elderly people familiar with the home.
Margaret Asquith, director of adult services at Bolton Council, and her deputy Adrian Cook said current residents affected by the changes would be given “several options” to choose from about their future.
Mr Cook said the cost of not incorporating the changes would total £91 million by 2018, £26 million of which would be paid for by the council. He insisted that the move was not a savings exercise but would make “better use” of existing services.
He added that Westhoughton had been earmarked as a venue for extra clinical services, but said it was not appropriate to go into the details until the proposals had gone before Bolton Council committees.
But town councillors criticised the pledge, pointing out that Westhoughton had been promised things in the past which had never come to fruition.
Cllr David Wilkinson, said the council’s consultation report was riddled with holes and threw up “more questions than answers”.
He also criticised the council for not making their rationale for instigating the reforms clearer in the report.
Cllr Wilkinson said: “This is going ahead. I’m familiar with these consultations and reports. I think Bolton Council has shot themselves in the foot with this. This report says a lot but large chunks are missing. Nowhere does it mention the supposed physical constraints or say that this building is X and Winifred Kettle is Y, and that’s why we’re doing it. There are too many ifs, buts and maybes, and people are wondering what you are really doing.”
Mr Cook explained that Bolton Council compares badly with similar local authorities and said the changes will allow them to care for more people in their own homes.
He admitted that the timing was regrettable but said a “huge push” nationally was putting pressure on Bolton Council to further integrate healthcare.
The usage of Winifred Kettle varies, with 248 admissions for round-the-clock care in the past year with 25 of those from Westhoughton.
On the promise that extra clinical services could be in the offing for Westhoughton, Cllr Lynda Winrow-Baker said: “We get promised a lot in Westhoughton but you can’t help wonder whether these new services will be forgotten once you have got what you want.”
Gwendoline Parr, who launched a petition to retain existing services at Winifred Kettle, said: “With healthcare receding all the time, people have always said, ‘never mind, there’s always Winny Kettle’, well not any more. Bolton Council has decided to close the beds to people when they come out of hospital.”
The consultation period on Winifred Kettle Firwood House ends on February 3.