Campaigners question logic of shutting mental health beds in Waveney

Carlton Court Hospital in Carlton Colville.

Carlton Court Hospital in Carlton Colville. - Credit: James Bass

Mental health chiefs insist they have enough beds in Waveney and Great Yarmouth, despite figures showing two hospitals were more than 90pc full before a decision was made to close inpatient beds.

Officials from Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) and HealthEast announced plans last month to reduce the number of adult acute beds in the area from 28 to 20.

The decision means that all 14 inpatient beds at Carlton Court, near Lowestoft, will be closed next year, once Northgate Hospital in Great Yarmouth is extended to include more beds.

However, campaigners have questioned the logic of shutting beds after new figures revealed that the two hospitals were full to capacity on many occasions over the last two years.

Figures released under a Freedom of Information request show that on average 93pc of adult acute inpatient beds at Carlton Court were occupied between September 2012 and July 14. The response also revealed that 94pc of Northgate Hospital beds were in use in that period.

Bob Blizzard, prospective parliamentary candidate for Waveney, spoke of his frustration after the figures were released after a decision was made to reduce the number of inpatient beds in the area.

'These figures prove what staff and patients have been telling us, that the wards are full or overflowing all the time. This is why patients have sometimes had to sleep on sofas or be sent to beds a long way away out of area. These figures do not justify the closure of Waveney Ward at Carlton Court, agreed by decision makers,' he said.

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Debbie White, director of operations for Norfolk and Waveney at the mental health trust, said they aimed to reduce pressure on beds in Yarmouth and Waveney by opening 10 new assessment beds at Hellesdon Hospital, Norwich.

'We are committed to using all the facilities and wards at Carlton Court to provide a range of new improved services as we develop it as a centre of excellence for older people's and younger persons' care.

'A third of service users in the adult acute beds in Carlton Court and Northgate Hospital in Great Yarmouth were from the Central Norfolk area. Great Yarmouth and Waveney residents are rarely placed out of area because we have enough capacity locally to care for them,' she said.

Twelve dementia beds on Larkspur Ward in Carlton Court have also been closed as part of the role out of a Dementia Intensive Support Team (DIST) providing more community care. However, 10 beds on Laurel Ward for older people with conditions such as bipolar, depression and schizophrenia are being reopened.

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