Burnley General Hospital mental health wards to close

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FAMILIES with loved ones being treated for mental illness face round trips of as much as 100 miles to see them in hospital in future.

All in-patient mental health care will go from Burnley when the wards at Burnley General Hospital close.

Local patients will be affected by the beginning of next year as the Lancashire NHS Foundation Trust, the body responsible for providing mental health care, brings in a series of radical changes by 2016.

Community services will be expected to take up the slack when Ward 19, specialising in dementia care, closes in March.

Very seriously ill patients will be treated at Ribbleton Hospital, Preston, until 2014 when all dementia care will move to the outskirts of Blackpool.

The Express submitted a Freedom of Information request to the mental health trust to see the exact impact the changes will have.

We asked about the numbers of patients cared for in Burnley and what will happen to them.

We asked about vulnerable youngsters and teenagers, and about care in the community.

We also asked about staffing levels, how many were expected to lose their jobs.

Figures for the final six months of last year show the three wards in Burnley and the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit were very busy. The PICU ward was 91.2% full, two of the others were at full or over full, at 99% and 102%, and the third was 56% full.

According to the Trust, 472 teenagers have been admitted to the PICU ward in the last five years. 489 patients were admitted with dementia.

The new Blackpool development, a car boot sale site at Wyndyke Farm, off Preston New Road, is expected to open in 2014. Its 30 dementia and 16 PICU beds will serve the whole of Lancashire. The Trust says it is reducing dementia care in hospital because of developments in community services.

It could not answer the question about staff cover in Burnley. It intends to run services in the community with the local authority and volunteers, and said: “We cannot provide a breakdown as we run the service across East Lancs, which includes Blackburn with Darwen. This give us the ability to flex resources across the whole locality as demand dictates.”

Staff working on adult and elderly psychiatric wards will be called in individually over the next few weeks about the changes.

In all there are 100 psychiatric nurses working in Burnley, split between the four wards. The FOI response from the Trust said: “It is not possible therefore at this stage in the process to indicate how many, if indeed any staff in Burnley will ‘lose their jobs’. The intention is to ensure all options are explored and reduce the likelihood of redundancy.”

In March, Wards 18, 20 and Paediatric Intensive Care will be closed until September.

Around £400,000 will be spent to convert them into four wards to house adult patients from both Blackburn and Burnley who have problems such as psychosis, depression, anxiety and bi-polar disorder during the time redevelopment is carried out at the Blackburn hospital. The work will take at least 18 months and begins in September. From 2015 there will be a total of 72 beds to cater for the whole of East Lancashire catering for those patients and others needing advanced intense levels of psychiatric care including complex conditions and severe long-standing illnesses.

The number of dementia patients in Burnley is expected to rise by 40% in coming years, from 985 in 2010 to 1,380 in 2025.

The Trust says dementia patients fare better if they are in familiar surroundings. It says dementia care has been strengthened within the community and overall services have not been reduced.

“Based on the dementia strategy and our own analysis of admissions to our wards over a number of years many of our patients admissions could have been avoided had there been a comprehensive range of community services available.”

In answer to a question about day-to-day care the Trust said: “The primary function of these services is to support the patients and carers within their own “homes”, provide interventions to address any deterioration in behaviour and manage transition from independent living to more supported accommodation without the need to be admitted into a specialist inpatient bed.”

It added: “Depending on the setting, the patient’s medication is managed by the nursing or residential home – for those in the community we work with relatives or in their absence this will be managed by our staff as appropriate.”

The Trust said it would work with GPs, who have overall responsibility for patients’ physical and mental health.

It intends to provide early diagnosis through memory assessment, liaison between nursing homes and hospitals, intensive support at home for up to eight weeks and a long-term care co-ordinated approach to support the patient and family from a community mental health team.”