Charity approves MS care shake-up
Members of a multiple sclerosis charity have endorsed plans for a shake-up of its respite care which may include closing its four residential centres.
Demonstrators assembled outside the AGM of the MS Society to protest against the possible closures.
It plans to close them by the end of next year, aiming instead to offer more personalised forms of treatment and help members have holidays.
The centres in York, Surrey, Warwickshire and East Lothian face closure if they are not taken over by other organisations.
Members voted by 2:1 (60%) at the AGM at a hotel in Wembley, north west London, in favour of its Board of Trustees' decision for the future of the Society's respite care, a spokeswoman for the charity said. She added: "We are pleased that members have voted in favour of the Society's decision to update the way in which we provide respite care.
"This will ensure that more people affected by MS will be able to access short breaks that are right for them, wherever they live and whatever their needs. The current four centres are excellent but are not used by the overwhelming majority of people with MS who need respite care (95%)."
A vote of no confidence in the Board tabled by two members was lost, the spokeswoman said.
Campaigners fear closure of the centres is the more likely option because they have equipment, such as ceiling-mounted hoists, which is highly specialised for MS patients.
Sue Tilley, who has had MS for 36 years and is a former MS Society Trustee, told the BBC earlier: "It really is extremely important. For many it's the specialised care that they get. Our homes only cater for people with MS so they're with staff that understand exactly what their problems are, they don't have to explain what the problems are to any of the other guests.
"They are expensive. It costs the society £2.7 million a year in the subsidy, but we've known this for years. Respite homes are different to long-stay homes and they do cost money, but that's what people give money to the society for."