HEALTH chiefs have been urged to secure the long-term future of a vital dementia carer’s post after a last-minute reprieve.
They have been told to act to remove the threat of the position being lost when new-found funding expires next March.
Campaigners say concerns that Liz Williams’s crucial support worker job in South Tyneside could go caused dismay and distress to Alzheimer’s sufferers and their carers.
Her role was only saved after a frantic last-minute scramble for about £40,000 of funding last week.
Now, NHS bosses and the Alzheimer’s Society, which employs her, have been asked to ensure they are better prepared next year.
Joan Atkinson, Labour councillor for Cleadon and East Boldon, who pressed for funding, said: “It is great that it has been secured.
“I was contacted by carers in East Boldon and Cleadon, who were very anxious about the potential loss of the post.
“Let’s hope that in future the plans for the service and the funds to pay for it are agreed before carers and sufferers become alarmed at the last minute.”
And June Coser, 80, chairman of the South Tyneside Alzheimer’s Carers funding committee, added: “We don’t want to go through the turmoil of the past few weeks again.
“The threat to Liz’s job has upset so many carers who already have too much to deal with.”
Steve McIntosh, policy and public affairs manager at Carers UK, said he was “deeply concerned” that families could lose support from social care services and charities.
He added: “Not only could this be devastating for them, but it would be incredibly short-sighted. If families are no longer able to care, greater costs and pressure will fall on public services.”
NHS South of Tyne and Wear, on behalf of South Tyneside Primary Care Trust and South Tyneside Council, agreed to give the funding last Friday.
It followed pressure from carers and MPs David Miliband and Stephen Hepburn, who had asked that the post be saved.
Mr Miliband, the South Shields MP, met with campaigners and also wrote to Jeremy Hughes, the Alzheimer’s Society’s chief executive in London, asking him to rethink its funding priorities.
And Jarrow MP Mr Hepburn had also supported them, saying he intended to write to relevant funding bodies. Carers insist Mrs Williams, who is in her 50s, provides an important lifeline for them in their day-to-day struggles to look after loved ones.
She gives help and advice for people when diagnosed, runs clubs and support groups, and is a link with health services.
And Mrs Williams, who works out of the Edinburgh Buildings, off King Street, South Shields, also runs dementia cafés, where carers can meet and be given advice and help.
NHS South of Tyne and Wear could not comment on next year’s funding policy.
A spokeswoman said: “We have agreed to extend funding for the Alzheimer’s Society’s befriending and peer support services until the end of March next year.”