The only unit dedicated to a rare degenerative brain disease in Scotland is set to close in Dundee by the end of the year.
Linlathen Neurological Care Centre in Broughty Ferry is home to 33 people with long-term brain injuries or complex neurological conditions.
However, they are set to be moved to Glasgow or Aberdeen before the end of this year after operator Living Ambitions decided to shut the facility.
Earlier this year care inspectors ordered them to renovate the home by the end of next January or face penalties.
Instead, Living Ambitions – part of the Lifeways Group of care firms – has chosen to pull the plug just two years after acquiring the centre from another care provider.
Staff were told this week of the decision to close the centre, and are said to be shocked by the sudden nature of the move.
The care home employs 84 staff, with Living Ambitions saying it will try to ‘minimise redundancies’.
Dundee East MP Stewart Hosie is meeting centre managers on Friday to seek assurances for staff and residents over the “deeply concerning” announcement.
He said: “The specialised services on offer at the centre, particularly for those living with Huntington’s disease, will be a great loss to the area.
“However, I appreciate that Lifeways are working closely with Dundee City Council to ensure residents are adequately rehoused and that no one is made homeless by this unfortunate development.”
Since it was acquired by Living Ambitions in July 2017 Linlathen has been the subject of two critical reports by the Care Inspectorate, which first described standards as “weak” and later “adequate”.
Following the most recent visit in May, inspectors ordered the firm to renovate the home to make it “fit for purpose” by the end of next January.
But now Living Ambitions – which recorded a net profit of over £7 million in 2018 – has said the home does not have a “long term future”.
The firm said: “The setting and environment are not compatible with providing high quality care. We want to focus on providing care and support in more modern community-based settings, and to people in their own homes.
“Every person we now support will be helped to move to a new home. We will work very closely with the families and carers of the people we support, and the councils who commission their care, to ensure that this is done with the minimum of disruption.
“We are doing everything we can to minimise redundancies and will offer alternative roles to as many colleagues as possible.”
Linlathen is home to Scotland’s only specialist unit for Huntington’s disease – a condition that causes the degeneration of nerve cells in the brain.
It occurs in about seven people per million in the UK each year and is generally fatal within 20 years of symptoms first appearing.
The Scottish Huntington’s Association, a key supporter, was honoured with a new bench in the centre’s garden in August to mark its 30th anniversary, paid for by local families supported by the charity.
But the charity was not notified of plans to close Linlathen.
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SHA chief executive John Eden said: “Unfortunately we have received no communication from Living Ambition. However, as of today we understand that there is an intention to close the unit.
“This will cause great concern amongst families who are now faced with making alternative arrangements for their loved ones. Nationally, there is a dire shortage of long-term care for people with Huntington’s disease, which is made even worse with this impending closure.
“We will seek urgent meetings with the relevant local authorities and Living Ambitions to look at what arrangements are being made to ensure the best care is in place for people with Huntington’s disease.”
Scottish Labour shadow health secretary Monica Lennon said: “It’s vital that specialist care and support is available to people living with Huntington’s disease and their families, as close to where they live as possible.”
The Dundee Health and Social Care Partnership said: “We are aware on this development and will be making alternative arrangements for people while keeping closely in touch with their families.”