Heartbroken patients contemplate closure of Helen Ley Care Centre
MULTIPLE sclerosis patients broke down in tears after being told a Leamington respite care home may close.
For more than 30 years the nationally-renowned Helen Ley Care Centre in Blackdown has been welcoming guests with the condition to stay, giving them and their carers a break from their everyday situation.
But last week the MS Society, which runs the centre, announced it was ending its residential respite care services - meaning the home must be sold on or closed.
Ratley resident Valerie Davis' cousin Wendy Burr, 66, has been travelling from Banbury for breaks at the centre for the past 24 years. She has a severe form of MS which means she cannot move at all.
Mrs Davis said: "Wendy is heartbroken. She was in tears when she heard the news. A lot of the guests were.
"She lives on her own and going to the centre is the only opportunity she has to socialise. She gets no visitors - only carers and does not see anybody from one day to the next.
"It's a basic human right to be allowed to socialise and this is taking that away from them."
Leamington resident Jayne, 56, has lived with the condition for almost half her life and regularly goes to the centre to attend meetings, social occasions, yoga classes and painting groups and to use its resources room.
She said: "A lot of people like myself get on with their lives very well, but there are some who need places like Helen Ley and people like me find it very useful and welcoming.
"The whole point is that patients have a rest from their families and the carers have a rest as well.
"It seems very sad that this facility is going to be taken away from the most vulnerable ones. I had absolutely no idea this was on the cards."
MS Society spokeswoman Toral Pattni said the decision to end residential respite care had been taken after the organisation conducted a review and consultation with more than 1,600 people with MS and their carers across the country.
She said: "Clearly the guests are our number one concern.
"If we were to close Helen Ley, we would make sure that every single guest would have support to find alternative respite care. This would be individual support for each person."
Ms Pattni said the society was currently looking to transfer their services to an alternative buyer, but if it was unsuccessful by November next year, "closure will follow".
Warwick District councillor Dave Shilton (Con, Kenilworth Park Hill), who has helped to raise thousands of pounds for the site, said he was "gobsmacked and saddened" to hear it may close.
He said: "It would be a very sad loss. I hope by some way or another that we can find someone else to keep this wonderful facility open.
"I shall be speaking to the Primary Care Trust to see if it can help."
Anyone with concerns should call the MS Society on 0208 438 0925.
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