Concern as service shake-up will leave no mental health beds for older people in Chichester district
Chichester and Arun Liberal Democrats have denounced the decision to close all the mental health beds for older people in the Chichester district.
As part of a reconfiguration of beds, the Harold Kidd Unit will close and all the beds will move to Worthing and Crawley.
The idea is to improve the service for the elderly with complex dementia and open a specialist dementia unit in Worthing.
However, the closure of the Harold Kidd Unit will also mean that there will be no beds for elderly patients with serious mental health problems, who do not have dementia, anywhere in the western area of West Sussex.
The health and adults social care committee at West Sussex scrutinised the issue last week and they all agreed that the centre of excellence would be beneficial for patients with severe dementia who need in-patient care.
However reservations were raised about closing Orchard ward where there are mental health beds for the elderly who do not have dementia, before finding a more local, close to home provision.
The committee raised concerns, voiced loudly in the consultation, about the long distances that relatives and carers might need to travel to visit.
Dr Kate O’Kelly, West Sussex county councillor for Midhurst, who for the last five years has worked as an old age psychiatrist specialising in dementia from the Harold Kidd Unit, after working as a GP,said: “The centre of excellence for dementia is welcome and I do think the service will be improved by this centralisation.
“However, I am really concerned about the Cinderella service for the elderly patients who have mental health problems without dementia.
“They do not need a service miles from home, they need some beds close to home.
“The whole of the Chichester district will now be without beds for these patients.
“Relatives and often frail spouses will have to travel miles, many no longer drive, and there is very poor access to public transport.
“This reconfiguration will not improve the service for this group of patients.
Dr O’Kelly called on the local NHS commissioners and the leaders of Sussex Partnership NHS Trust to think again and look at an alternative local provision and open some beds close to home.
She called for a pause to a plan to close Orchard ward until all options have been considered.
Dr James Walsh, county councillor for Littlehampton, said travel from Bognor Regis or Littlehampton to Worthing Swandean site or to Crawley is difficult – the needs of this elderly, frail and often forgotten group need to be considered.
A spokesman for the Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust said: “Patients, carers and their families have a right to expect hospital care in a high quality, safe environment where we can safeguard their privacy and dignity. Our final plans to improve mental health services in West Sussex will achieve this.
“We recognise that our plans may increase travel times for some service users and their carers and that patients, carers and families may have to travel further than they do now.
“However, other people may have to travel less because our plans have resulted in increased inpatient capacity in other areas.
“To help those who may be affected, we plan to pay additional expenses to the carers and families of patients who are in the wards at the point of transfer.
“We will also look at community transport support where feasible and provide overnight accommodation for carers of older people at the new specialist Dementia centre. We will continue to investigate other possible transport solutions in the long-term.
“We are committed to supporting all of our patients, carers and families to have a positive experience when they need inpatient mental health support so welcome any feedback on how we can improve services.”
Of the total number of inpatients recorded at the Harold Kidd Unit on first day of each month between April 2018 and April 2019 (123 patients), 13 per cent were from the Chichester area while 87 per cent were from other areas across West Sussex, East Sussex and further afield, according to the trust.
An anonymous visitor transport survey, which was answered by 32 visitors to the Harold Kidd Unit in early 2020, found that 82 per cent of visitors used a car to visit the wards, the trust said.