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Viewforth House closes sooner than expected

Viewforth House is closing after being considered to be unsuitable for long term care. Photo Austin Taylor

SHETLAND’S 20 bed care home and day centre for people with dementia has closed its doors for the last time, several months ahead of schedule.

On Thursday Shetland Islands Council announced that the last resident at Viewforth House had moved into another care home and the building would be handed to the authority’s capital assets division for sale or re-use.

More than a year ago a critical review of the islands’ dementia services by Professor June Andrews recommended closing rather than investing in Viewforth, saying the two storey stone building on Lerwick’s Burgh Road was not designed as a specialist unit for people with the disease, despite being refurbished in 1997.

Social care director Simon Bokor Ingram said: “Professor Andrews’ report said that Viewforth should not be seen as a specialist dementia care centre because we were looking after people with the same severity of dementia in other care centres.

“There is also a general drive away from having people with dementia going into one building, and 60 per cent of people in care homes across the UK have a form of dementia.”

Social care director Simon Bokor-Ingram

He said Viewforth had simply “evolved back in the depths of time” into a place where people with dementia were looked after, but the building’s design did not “lend itself to a long term future for looking after people in a care setting”. 

Around 30 staff who worked at Viewforth have been redeployed within social care and extra rooms have been built at Lerwick’s Edward Thomason House and Taing House to cater for some of its former residents.

Others have moved to care homes elsewhere in Shetland, after “extensive discussion and planning” with all ex-residents and their families.

For the past year the SIC has stopped admitting new residents to Viewforth, as it encourages more people with dementia to be cared for in their own home for as long as possible.

Social services committee chairman Cecil Smith

By the end there was a single resident who was looked after by two staff during each of three shifts a day.

Social services committee chairman Cecil Smith said the council had not expected to close Viewforth until this summer, but spaces at other care homes had become available sooner than expected.

Praising the staff who worked there, Smith said: “Viewforth was doing the job it needed to do, but the building was getting old and tired.

“We had always planned to move people elsewhere and we have been working on that for the last year.

Viewforth House is being handed to the SIC's capital assets division and is likely to be placed on the property market. Photo Austin Taylor

“We have people with dementia in every care centre in Shetland and we need to make sure our efforts concentrate on keeping people in their own communities and their own homes, which is much more familiar for them.”