Health chiefs hope to open another 30 beds for mentally ill patients in Lancashire in order to help ease the pressure on Blackpool’s new Harbour mental health unit.
The facility, on Preston New Road, which has 154 beds, has been operating to full capacity meaning some emergency admissions have had to be found beds in the private sector prompting a £1.4m overspend since the unit opened in March.
Speaking ahead of the official opening of the facility yesterday, Sue Moore, chief operating officer at Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We have put some proposals to our commissioners to open two assessment wards in East Lancashire to ease the pressure here and we hope these will open in January.”
Staff shortages which have led to the closure of the eight-bed Byron Ward to new admissions are also being addressed.
Ms Moore said: “We operate a three shift system, as opposed to the national standard which is for two shifts.
“This means we have greater staff numbers during the day so we can deliver more therapy and patients have more continuity of care.
“We have carried out a lot of recruitment and increased staffing levels by 60 full-time equivalents since we opened.
“So it does feel harsh when we are criticised for doing something that is at the heart of patient quality.”
Patients stay in the unit for 28 days on average, although those with more acute mental health needs may have to stay for up to a year.
Apart from those suffereing dementia, around half of patients are admitted due to addiction issues, mainly in relation to alcohol and drug abuse.
The £40m unit, which takes patients from across Lancashire, was offically opened yesterday by Tony Blair’s former spin doctor Alistair Campbell, who is a mental health campaigner after suffering from depression himself.
Mr Campbell said The Harbour was one of the best facilities of its kind he had come across.
He told The Gazette: “If you invest in mental health care now, you will save money down the line.
“I have been to some really bad mental health facilities and you go in and your heart sinks and you think how can people get better?
“You come in here and it is light and airy, and the staff are friendly, and it feels therapeutic.
“There are people who will come in here broken, and leave feeling well again.”
All patients have their own ensuite rooms, corridors are wide so people do not feel hemmed in, and there are quiet areas for patients to spend time with their family.
Bronte ward, for female dementia patients, has a ‘wander path’ so patients can move around freely including into an outside area.
Senior matron Sheila Kasaven said: “We have decorated the walls to make them welcoming, and there are lots of brightly coloured signs.
“Also the ward is spread out and people are engaged and not hemmed in
“There are lots of activities and they can choose their own meals, all of which helps their treatment.”