Suffolk User Forum (SUF), speaking as the voice for mental health service users in Suffolk, has responded to the closure of the Lark Ward in Ipswich.
SUF says that it shares the concerns expressed by other about the loss, even temporally, of such key local in-patient beds for some of the most vulnerable unwell people in Suffolk
Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust (NSFT) made the decision to close the ward – a psychiatric intensive care unit (PICU) – based at Woodlands, Ipswich from Friday, April 6 2018.
The decision to close the ward is said to be due to low levels of staff which would put staff and patients at risk. Peter Devlin the Trust’s Operations Director for Suffolk said the situation is likely to take months to resolve.
SUF says it is concerned about patient safety in the wake of the closure and the lack of communications with key partners around the decision. It recognises also the acuteness of the unavailability of specialist professional staff for this vital work, a problem not only in Suffolk but in so many other places nationally. In exceptional circumstances it is the right thing to do to temporarily close a ward
The forum – together with Healthwatch Suffolk and the Suffolk Parent Carer Network – met this week executives from the trust to better understand the reasons for the closure and how this situation could have been more effectively managed. SUF welcomed the opportunity to take part in this multi-stakeholder meeting.
Jayne Davey, SUF Manager (pictured above) said: “We understand patient safety is paramount and there are issues with workforce numbers. However, we do feel the decision could have been managed better if the trust had communicated more closely with key partners before the decision was announced.
“Patients, service users and family carers are extremely concerned and worried about vulnerable people now being placed in beds out of the area and in some cases long distances from their home.
“If there had been more involved communication between the trust and organisations such as SUF, we could have been in a better position to offer valuable support to patients and families affected by this decision.
“Working together is an opportunity for radical change going forward. We need to take a long-term view, involving anyone with an interest in mental health to have a voice and to be part of creative thinking for mental health care in Suffolk.
“SUF is keen to work very closely on this with NSFT, East and West Suffolk NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups and Suffolk County Council. It is keen to be closely involved in what the NHS locally calls its planned ‘Refresh of Suffolk Mental Health Strategy and Clinical Model.
“SUF wants to support this urgent, current improvement programme and will work positively and productively with colleagues, where there are some good relationships, and especially with Peter Devlin, the Operations Director for Suffolk (pictured left).
“The key consideration now is to ensure that people in Suffolk always have access to appropriate services in times of distress. The only way this can be achieved is if all partners involved in the provision of mental health services work together, fully involving and having regard for the experiences, needs and wishes of service users. This applies to both the shorter and longer term challenges.
“There needs to be faith and confidence in the healthcare systems available, and to achieve this high quality services such as psychiatric intensive care units need to be in places where they are needed most. This has to be the starting point for creating increased involvement between key partners and working together as communities for improved mental health and well-being in the county.
SUF comments in East Anglian Daily Times 14th April 2018 – NSFT confirms half of Lark Ward’s patients moved out of area as charity expresses concern over closure.