Coronavirus: Fears over future of respite centre Leuchie House

By Morag Kinniburgh
BBC News Scotland

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image captionLeuchie House, near North Berwick, normally provides respite care and support for MS and stroke patients

A respite centre which has been helping the NHS through Covid 19 is fighting for its financial future.

Leuchie House in East Lothian has taken in patients from hospitals who no longer need intensive medical care.

During lockdown the MS and stroke survivors who usually use they centre have been having to cope at home.

Now staff and patients are worried it will not have the funds to provide desperately needed respite when lockdown lifts.

Seventy-year-old Bill Dawson retired to Ednam, by Kelso in the Borders, with his wife Liz.

The former personnel manager used to run marathons. He has been using a wheelchair since being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

image captionBill and Liz Dawson say Leuchie House provide "lifeline" support for them and others like them

"MS is a 24/7 condition and when Liz goes out she is concerned about how I am because I have had falls," he said.

"Thankfully nothing serious, but when I'm away at Leuchie House for 11 days she knows I'm safe, I'm being cared for and I'm happy."

He usually receives respite care twice a year at Leuchie, a country house near North Berwick which provides intense physio and nursing support.

"There isn't anywhere else like it in the UK, " Bill said.

"I'm helped to stand up, and that's great because I spend so much of my time at this height that actually to get back to the 6ft that I am.

"From standing we progress to walking a few steps and by the end of the 11 days I'm not walking up and down the parallel bars, I'm walking up and down the corridor outside the physio suite."

When Leuchie House shut during lockdown MS and stroke survivors were sent home.

The charity switched to taking in NHS patients who no longer need acute medical intervention in hospital but are not well enough to go back home or into community care.

image captionStaff at Leuchie House have been looking after patients who no longer need acute medical care in hospital but are not well enough to go home

Staff nurse Michelle Bunkell is among those working at the centre who is now working shifts to provide 24/7 care for the new NHS patients.

"It's really difficult and we've all had to adapt," she said.

"This House is normally really busy and full of life and it certainly does feel a lot quieter. We're having to care for all of our new residents in their rooms. We can't use the public rooms.

"The feedback we get from them is that they are really happy here, and that gives us a lot of satisfaction. We're just really happy to be making our contribution to the NHS right now."

image captionMark Bevan said he was worried about the service being able to start up again for patients who normally receive respite care

Whilst staff are coping at Leuchie, the charity's chief executive, Mark Bevan, said the future of the service they provide is at risk and they need emergency funding to survive.

"We had to close our doors to guests and that meant we had no guest income and meant we had to stop our usual fundraising events. We think we will lose about £500,000 over the whole period.

And he is also concerned about the impact on patients who normally use the centre.

He said: "There are people at home who are not receiving the respite they usually receive who are really, really struggling isolated at home with their loved ones having to provide all their care and support because they can't access services like Leuchie at the moment.

"We're really worried that we will be able to start the service off again when lockdown eases sufficiently for guests to come back, because those people will be really desperate for the sort of service that Leuchie provides and we need to keep hold of our staff and keep the building going so we can respond as soon as possible."

Bill Dawson's wife, Liz, 61, said the centre was a "lifeline" for many across Scotland and she is deeply concerned for the future.

"Bill's booked in again in February and already I'm counting down the months to that and if that isn't going to happen then that's going to be a big deal, a really big deal.

"The thing for me is I get through each month knowing I've got something to look forward to and that something is Bill's respite in Leuchie."