Unit overspends by £1.4m in bed crisis

The Harbour mental health care facility
The Harbour mental health care facility
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A troubled mental health unit in Blackpool is shelling out almost £8,000 per day to house patients privately because there is no room to care for them.

The £40m Harbour unit, on Preston New Road, has overspent by £1.4m providing alternative accommodation for mental health patients just six months after it opened.

It comes after The Gazette reported earlier this month the Byron Ward, a female psychiatric intensive care unit, has been closed to new admissions because of a lack of suitably-qualified staff.

A probe also continues into a death of a patient at the unit in July.

Blackpool South MP Gordon Marsden, who has called on health bosses to be more transparent in revealing the centre’s problems, today said: “This figure of £1.4m spent on alternative providers seems large and again we need clarity from the Harbour’s management both on how this relates to their overall budget and how much more unforeseen expenditure because of their problems is likely to arise.”

A spokesman at Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust said: “The Trust has experienced a high level of demand for inpatient mental health beds and this pressure on beds is mirrored nationally. There is high demand and pressure across all of the Trust’s inpatient units, including The Harbour.

“We have spent £1.4 million more than planned to the end of September on alternative provider mental health beds for people from across Lancashire.

“The Harbour forms part of our network of pan Lancashire mental health beds, therefore this spend relates to accommodating people from across the county, not just from the Blackpool and Fylde Coast area.

“We are working hard with our commissioners to make the best use of resources and so that people can receive high quality care within the Lancashire area.

“A number of initiatives are underway to create extra capacity in the system and to free up beds locally. This includes opening a new psychiatric intensive care ward, extra assessment wards, a clinical decision unit, step down beds and a community-based acute therapy service.

“We are also looking at identifying those patients that are in beds who could actually be cared for effectively at home with the right support of community teams.”

The Gazette reported on October 9 how health bosses were attempting to retrain existing staff to fill shortages – which led to the closure of the eight-bed Byron Ward – due to a lack of mental health nurses nationally.

The Byron Ward closed on September 28 when the final patient was discharged to an “alternative provider” following the removal of other patients. No confirmed date has been set for it to re-open but bosses hoped it would be within the next month.

The Harbour caters for people from the elderly living with dementia or mothers with post natal depression, to people suffering acute psychiatric problems.