Ward closures may force mental health patients into out of area Christmas

Photo: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

People needing mental health care may have to spend Christmas out of the area - Credit: PA

People in urgent need of mental health treatment may be forced to spend Christmas away from their families as it has emerged two closed wards are unlikely re-open this year.

Hellesdon Hospital's Rollesby ward, which houses a psychological intensive care unit (PICU) has been closed since March for a £60,000 project to repair damage and had been expected to re-open in December.

And the Dragonfly unit in Lowestoft, home to 10 specialist beds for young people, was closed to new patients in August.

But on Thursday, the board of directors of the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) heard that neither ward is expected to re-open in the immediate future, meaning patients needing beds around Christmas may have to spend the festive period out of area.

Updating members on the Rollesby ward, acting chief operating officer Amy Eagle said: "The building work [in Rollesby] is still scheduled to be completed towards the end of December, but reopening depends on having the right training and safety precautions in place [to operate it]."

The repairs to the ward had previously been delayed due to a national shortage of building supplies.

Dr Dan Dalton, chief medical officer at Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, says there has been a big increase in...

Dan Dalton, chief medical officer of NSFT - Credit: Angela Sharpe Photography

Meanwhile, chief medical officer Dan Dalton said the Dragonfly unit had stopped admitting new patients as a specialist psychiatrist employed on the ward had been deployed elsewhere in the Trust.

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A number of patients who were on the ward when it closed to new admissions are still being cared for in the unit in Lowestoft.

Emma Corlett, who has worked as a mental health nurse in Norwich for 14 years, and is media spokesma

Emma Corlett, of Norfolk County Council

Emma Corlett, who until the role was discontinued served as mental health champion for Norfolk County Council, said: "Staffing pressures continue in what seems like every part of the service. There are simply not enough staff for the number of people who need care and treatment.

"This is unsafe as sadly too many recent tragedies have shown us.

"There is a risk of further bed closures on safety grounds due to lack of a psychiatrist to cover the ward - a basic minimum requirement.

"Mental health services need urgent investment, support to stop exhausted staff leaving and a management team up to the job of keeping people safe and holding honest conversations with the community they serve. Sadly I don't see any of that happening soon."