Concern for the elderly in Lochalsh after care centre’s sudden closure

The Airdferry Centre in Dornie has only been open since 2011. Picture, Willie Urquhart

The sudden closure of a key Lochalsh care centre for the elderly has been branded an unfair attack on the area’s most vulnerable.

NHS Highland, which operates the Airdferry resource centre in Dornie, has blamed staffing pressure for the decision to close and transfer services some 20 miles away to An Acarsaid in Broadford.

The health authority has said the closure, which came into effect from Monday, will initially be for a three-month period, but it could consider re-opening the facility at a later date.

There has been shock at the lack of local consultation on the issue, and an online petition against the closure – launched yesterday (Thursday 12th September) by Loch Duich Community Council – has already attracted close to 600 signatures,

Lochalsh Councillor Biz Campbell said she had been “totally unaware” of any plans to close the centre until Saturday, when she was handed a notice alerting her to a public meeting later this month.

By that time, the decision to suspend the service had already been made.

It is understood there are about five people who currently use the services at Airdferry, though it can provide day care and support for up to 15.

“Unfair decision,” said local councillor Biz Campbell. Picture, Willie Urquhart

Airdferry opened just eight years ago, providing day care and support for the elderly and those suffering from Alzheimer’s, as well as offering respite for families and main carers.

Councillor Campbell said the centre’s loss would be a huge blow for the district.

She added: “It is so upsetting. It’ll leave us without any care for the elderly in Lochalsh – some of the people who are most in need.”

The centre was built following the closure of former Highland Council-run residential care home Graham House. Six houses, designed for older people, were also part of the development

Land for the centre was donated to the local Dornie Development Group by the Smech Property Trust – operated by Inverinate Estate owner Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum – and was leased initially to the council.

NHS Highland took over the centre as part of a transfer of adult social care services in 2012.

Councillor Campbell said the land for the development had been secured on the specific basis it be used to house a facility to care for the elderly.

“More people could be using the centre – but they first need to be assessed and referred, and there is a backlog due to a lack of available social workers,” Councillor Campbell added.

An NHS Spokesman said: “Due to significant staffing pressures, a decision has been made to temporarily consolidate and operate local day services at one site – the An Acarsaid Care Home in Broadford. This means service users from the AirdFerry Resource Centre can access services in An Acarsaid and transport will be provided if required.

“The move allows staff to support the care home whilst still providing a service to AirdFerry service users. It is expected that this arrangement will be in place for a period of three months. The day service at Airdferry may be resumed sooner if the staffing situation is resolved.

“Meanwhile, a consultation about  future services to be delivered from AirdFerry is set to begin at a meeting at the resource centre at 4.30pm on Thursday 19th September.”

When the Airdferry centre was inspected in 2016 it was given five marks out of five for the quality of care and support, the quality of staffing and quality of management and leadership.