Patients hit by latest delays

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A shortage of beds for mental health patients in Lancashire is a growing problem, a Lancashire Care Trust chief has admitted.

All planned and non-urgent appointments were suspended for mental health patients until yesterday, with some still on hold until January 15, due to pressures on services across the county.

Staff from community services have also been re-deployed to the worst affected areas and patients are being signposted to alternative support if their appointments cannot be rearranged.

Sue Moore, chief operating officer at Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust, said: “There is currently an increased demand for healthcare services across the county, and this includes the Trust. We are experiencing a higher than usual demand for mental health beds and the number of patients that we have been able to discharge has been minimal, creating a lack of available beds.

“Working alongside our partners, a number of measures have been put in place to create capacity and ensure the continuity of care.

“The situation is dynamic and improving and our focus remains on robustly managing demand.”

The trust say it could not confirm how many people were waiting for a bed.

The strain on resources is impacting on troubled The Harbour unit in Blackpool. The opening of the purpose built facility in March saw the move of the majority of Lancashire’s mental health beds to the coast but it seems it is reaching its capacity.

The Byron Ward - the Female Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit – was mothballed at the end of last year after health bosses admitted they have been hit by a shortage of specialist nurses to care for the patients.

It had overspent by £1.4m providing alternative accommodation for mental health patients just six months after it opened.

On staff being redeployed and appointments rearranged, Mrs Moore said: “Staff from community services have been temporarily re-deployed and the decision has been taken to suspend all planned or non-urgent appointments with some elements of our community services continuing with these arrangements until January 15.

“Our staff will be contacting patients to rearrange appointments at the earliest opportunity and to signpost them to alternative support, should they require this. If anyone is concerned about their mental health and wellbeing in the meantime, please contact your local team for help and support or you can call the Wellbeing and Mental Health Helpline on 0800 915 4640.”