Mental health staff ‘fear losing jobs’ over bed cut plan

NHS mental health facilities in Chichester could all be moved
NHS mental health facilities in Chichester could all be moved

‘Stressed’ NHS staff are ‘frightened to speak out’ over proposals to close mental health beds in Chichester ‘for fear they will lose their jobs’, it is claimed.

The Sussex Partnerships Trust is looking at transferring beds and services from Graylingwell to Worthing and Crawley, leaving no facilities in Chichester.

A former mental health ward on the Graylingwell site which has closed and is assigned for more homes

A former mental health ward on the Graylingwell site which has closed and is assigned for more homes

Staff, doctors and nurses are ‘very worried’ for the people who use the mental health services and the impact on carers and family with extra travel costs, as well as the ‘isolation’ from not having the support ‘from the nursing teams they know’, an anonymous letter sent to the Observer states.

It states: “The talk of 17 bed closures as the trust plans to increase crisis care to keep people at home is interesting – with the existing services so stretched and staff so stressed with their current case loads and the lack of staff and inability to recruit and having to manage much higher risk patients in the community.

“Staff are frightened to speak out for fear of losing their jobs during this process for voicing their professional concerns regarding the trust’s plans, they believe to be financially led.”

The Sussex Partnerships Trust runs NHS mental health services across West and East Sussex. A spokesman stressed the proposals are at an early stage, would go to consultation and that ‘no job losses at all were anticipated’. (Full statement below).

As reported, Sussex Partnership has early proposals for two new ‘centres of excellence’ on existing sites, with all services for over 65s and dementia patients going to Swandean Hospital, Worthing, and working age services to Langley Green Hospital, Crawley.

Despite the trust being at 105 per cent capacity across its in-patient facilities, the plan would see overall beds across West Sussex reduce.

The letter also contained a bulletin sent out to staff, which gave more detail about the proposal.

It would see the Howard Kidd Unit, Chichester, close and go to Swandean, and Orchard Ward go to Meadowfield, Worthing, which would mean an increase in older people’s beds by five but a decrease in working age beds by 17, the bulletin states.

Working age beds at Oaklands would go to Langley Green.

“As we know this plan seems ludicrous with the increasing demands on our services,” the letter states.

“Yet again the people with mental health problems are unfairly treated, the closure of local beds in a system which clearly shows there is a need. Apart from finance what is the reason?

‘Nothing has been decided’

Dr Brian Solts, clinical director for services in West Sussex for the trust, said: “These are only proposals at this stage – nothing has been decided – and we’re sorry if staff feel they have not been involved in the process.

“We are at the early stage of exploring an idea to change the location from which some of our inpatient services are provided. “We are absolutely committed to fully involving staff, service users, families and partners in any proposed changes to services. “I am very sorry if any member of staff doesn’t feel able to raise concerns with me or another member of our leadership team.

“We want people to feel valued and listened to, because improving staff experience is a vital part of improving patient and family experience.

“The thinking behind the plans that we are exploring is to improve care for patients and families at the same time as making financial savings.

“Also, some of our estate has been highlighted by our regulator, the CQC, as not fit for purpose and therefore we have to plan now for how we provide future services in the best environments we have.

“We are at the very start of this process in West Sussex and we want and encourage staff to be involved in helping us shape how we can provide the very best care for our patients.

“We haven’t made any firm decisions about what changes we are going to formally propose and discuss with our partners but there is a strong case for investing in early intervention and prevention and reducing hospital admission wherever possible, which might allow us to reduce bed numbers.

“We certainly do not expect there to be any redundancies.

“A really important part of this is improving investment in, and provision of, mental health crisis care because 20 per cent of A&E attendances are accounted for by the 7 per cent of the population who have mental health problems in our local area.

“The West Sussex Health and Adult Social Care Committee, in our initial discussions with them, has said very strongly that we would need to make the case about how any proposed changes to services would benefit patients and families.

“We would also need to be very clear about how we would address concerns around any increase in travel times for both patients, their families and affected staff.”

- Elsewhere, Iris Ward services in Horsham, which the trusts says is ‘not fit for purpose’, would go, with the preferred option to go to Salvington Lodge, where there are already two dementia wards. Alternatively it would go to Dove Ward, Crawley Hospital.

The remaining adult wards at Meadowfield would go to Langley Green and the older people’s ward, Opal, from Langley Green to Meadowfield.