A dementia diagnosis service will stop accepting new patients so nurses can be redeployed elsewhere to save on agency staff costs.

Management at Sussex Partnership Foundation Trust (SPFT) wants to suspend the Dementia Assessment Service (DAS) for new patients between January and April next year.

The DAS provides early detection, diagnosis, treatment and care for people living with dementia, and support for those caring for dementia patients.

But under new plans, the service will halt admissions and DAS employees will work on inpatient psychiatric wards to reduce costs arising from using agency staff on those wards.

Staff have raised concerns about their physical and professional abilities to step into these roles and The Argus understands there is no guarantee staff will return to their original posts in April.

People across West Sussex and in High Weald, East Sussex, awaiting dementia assessments, diagnosis and treatment initiation will be affected.

The north of Sussex alone has approximately 600 clients awaiting assessment and suspending the service means the wait time for a diagnosis will be closer to a year, possibly longer in the Mid Sussex area, a source told The Argus.

“People with dementia will wait longer for assessment and treatment options, meaning they will have to wait longer for a medication which might help slow down the neurodegenerative process and help with certain symptoms,” said the source.

“The symptoms they may present with include agitation, sleep disturbances or maybe hallucinations, which will feature for longer and have greater impact.”

Without DAS assessment, clients may be at greater risk of hospital admissions, which could place greater pressure on the need for hospital beds. It could also lead to an earlier time for a person going into care.

 “Too often the needs of the elderly are not considered and the wider impact that our service may offer them is not being fully appreciated,” said the source.

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A spokeswoman from SPFT said: "Work is underway across the NHS in Sussex to maintain emergency and urgent care services, with patient safety being our top priority.  

"To manage resources effectively, as we approach the busy Christmas and New Year period, some of our services will be temporarily reduced or changed to allow staff to be redeployed to other services so they can remain safe and be of the highest quality for our patients.

"We’re in the process of developing plans and engaging with our staff.”

SPFT said it is in the early stages of consultation.

Services at New Park House in Horsham, Chapel Street in Chichester, Highdown in Worthing, Swandean in Worthing, Pepperville House in Littlehampton, Crawley Hospital, Linwood in Haywards Heath, the Bedale Centre in Bognor, and Uckfield Hospital will be affected.