'No-one's left to rot in Chebsey'
A NURSE has defended a learning disabilities unit which families say is robbing patients of the chance to live independently.
Chebsey Close in Bucknall is to close as part of a programme to help rehabilitate people with severe challenging behaviour.
But the nurse, who has just retired, spoke out after hearing allegations they were being "left to rot".
Tony Bullock, aged 58, of Hanley, said: "I want their parents, who are mainly elderly, to be reassured that their sons and daughters are in the best possible care in Chebsey Close.
"They benefit from extremely high staffing levels, committed and dedicated nurses, modern, clean surroundings and a high quality of life."
Two weeks ago Mr Bullock ended his 15-year career as a learning disabilities staff nurse with a three-month spell at Chebsey Close.
He also told how patients were taken out in buses for walks and picnics.
The unit, run by mental health trust Combined Healthcare, was at the centre of a new style of care to try to rehabilitate patients so they could be re-settled in the community. But these methods were stopped amid the suspension or dismissal of four senior managers and clinicians.
Since then a national report by experts criticised learning disabilities services in Staffordshire and claimed Chebsey Close should have closed four years ago.
Now health managers have confirmed it will shut at a time yet to be agreed under a package of improvements – and have opened talks with social services to review patients who may be well enough to leave.
Speaking last night, Mr Bullock confirmed one patient had left and another two were due to be discharged by next Easter.
But he revealed some residents had been there since they moved from Stallington Hospital in Blythe Bridge, which closed in 1996.
Mr Bullock started as a nurse in 1997 following a spell volunteering at Stallington. He spent most of his career at Chesterton's Dragon Square respite bungalows for adults, which closed in the summer, leading to his move to Chebsey Close.
Suffering from severe arthritis, he was given clerical duties such as audits and risk assessments.
He said: "I suppose it does feel a little institutional but the unit has 80 staff allowing five or six to be on duty in each bungalow.
"Patient numbers are now falling and when it closes I just hope staffing levels will stay as high for them in the community."
Ian Syme, co-ordinator of North Staffordshire Healthwatch, said: "There are on-going arguments about the best ways to deal with individuals with severe neurological problems.
"Chebsey Close fits into the 'holding' model of care, which we feel is not ultimately beneficial for individuals in that situation."