Taking a break

Written by: Mairi O'Keefe, CEO, Leuchie House

Published: 07/05/2014

Leuchie House in North Berwick provides over 5,000 respite nights a year to support people with long term conditions and their carers.

The respite care facility provides high quality, integrated care in a non-clinical setting, including specialist nursing care as well as many other in-house therapises and activities.

It is tempting to dismiss respite care as an opportunity for people coping with the rigours of a long-term condition to enjoy a “holiday” before carrying on with day-to-day life. In reality, this could not be further from the truth. If these people – and their carers – did not get quality respite care, the resultant strain on our health service would prove untenable.

The true integration of health and social care means using the opportunity of respite breaks to assess the physical and emotional wellbeing of people living with a long-term degenerative condition, taking the opportunity for anticipatory and preventative intervention before returning them back to their community more equipped to deal with their situation – and freeing up a hospital bed in the process.

This is not an issue affecting a small group of people. According to Audit Scotland:

  • Around two million people, 40 % of the Scottish population, have at least one long-term condition;
  • 60% of all deaths are attributable to long-term conditions;
  • Long-term conditions account for 80% of all GP consultations;
  • People with long-term conditions are twice as likely to be admitted to hospital, will stay in hospital disproportionately longer, and account for over 60% of hospital bed days used;
  • Most people who need long-term residential care have complex needs from multiple long-term conditions.

These statistics show why there is no compromise when it comes to the quality of care we offer at Leuchie House. From the 24-hour expert nursing care to the trips and activities to the range of therapies and delicious home cooked meals offered to our guests. All these elements are vital in ensuring people get the quality experience they need to equip them to face the daily reality of their condition with dignity and courage.

If they do not receive this level of quality care, the Scottish Government says: “The human costs and the economic burden for health and social care are profound.”

With the average hospital inpatient case in Scotland in 2013 costing £2,714*, we cannot afford to compromise on the care we give to people who are struggling to live independently with a long-term condition. Many of these people become increasingly isolated as their condition progresses and the benefits of the social stimulation they are offered at Leuchie House are crucial to helping them regain a sense of their former independence.

We see guests with a variety of conditions, such as Multiple Sclerosis, stroke, Huntington’s Disease, Parkinson’s, Motor Neurone Disease and cerebral palsy. Audit Scotland calculates that by the age of 65, nearly two-thirds of people will have developed a long-term condition.

In 2013,  we provided  5,900 respite days  at Leuchie House, with 88% of guests from 25 Scottish local authorities, 11% from England and 1% from overseas.

Many of the guests who come to Leuchie are very much in need of the anticipatory and preventative measures taken by Leuchie staff, who have the opportunity to assess guests’ physical and emotional needs and refer back to the relevant community health professionals. This includes the physiotherapists who importantly take this opportunity to do an assessment of wheelchairs for comfort and suitability.

In 2013 at Leuchie House:

  • 212 referrals were made to GPs, community nurse, Social work, Dieticians etc
  • 225 wheelchairs were assessed
  • 106 in-house alterations made
  • 86 referrals to NHS Wheelchairs

For most of the people who come to Leuchie – with or without their carers – there is no alternative venue for caring respite breaks and their only option in the event of needing emergency respite would be a hospital bed or a care of the elderly home. As many of the people we see at Leuchie are diagnosed in their 20s and 30s, this would be unsuitable and could be potentially detrimental to their long-term emotional well-being.

We make no apologies for the fact that our guests are treated with the level of style and comfort we would all expect when we are away for a break. We pride ourselves on running Leuchie with a non-clinical country house ambience and we have the distinct advantage in this of being situated in the rolling countryside of East Lothian, just outside the seaside town of North Berwick.

There is nothing purpose-built about Leuchie House, although everything has been adapted to make the house and grounds accessible for our guests. Our guests appreciate all the architectural features and idiosyncrasies of the classical building which set Leuchie apart from purpose-built and sometimes characterless venues.

As a fairly new independent charity, the funds we need to raise over and above respite fees to maintain this level of quality are not inconsiderable. But I will continue to fight for the rights of our guests to expect and deserve this level of care for as long as they keep returning.

Perhaps the best way to get the point across is to let the guests themselves explain what Leuchie means to them, in our short film:

*  Information Services Division, NHS National Services Scotland, Scottish Health Service Costs Year ended 31 March 2013.

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