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Calls for reopening of Mulberry Unit at Stracathro after scathing mental health inquiry

Ruth Leslie Melville.
Ruth Leslie Melville.

A mental health unit in Angus which has lain empty for years should be reopened urgently, campaigners have said.

The Mulberry Unit at Stracathro Hospital closed to acute inpatients in 2017 due to a shortage of junior doctors and Angus patients were forced to uproot to Carseview in Dundee.

Tuesday’s scathing report into Tayside’s mental health services has warned Carseview has “limited facilities” compared to the Mulberry.

Relocating Mulberry patients to Carseview was supposed to be a short term measure but was made permanent in 2018.

The independent inquiry into mental health services highlighted negative evidence given by patients.

Campaigners who fought to protect Mulberry, and Stracathro overall, say the report strengthens the argument to re-instate the ward.

Ruth Leslie Melville, former Angus Provost and a long-time supporter of Stracathro, said: “We are talking about a very vulnerable patient group and their needs must be taken seriously.

“The move to Carseview was never about patients’ wellbeing and this report shows the damaging impact it has had.

“I would be interested to see what the results have been from moving from Mulberry to Carseview.  I can guarantee there will not have been a single benefit.

“Patients are suffering as a result of Carseview and it has a negative impact on families who have to travel to visit them. Family support is such a big part of recovery so that is detrimental to recovery.

“The sooner that the health board realises the NHS is supposed to be run for the benefit of patients and not practitioners or budgets the better.

“There is not even a question over the fact that the Mulberry should be reopened.”

The report said: “The ward has limited facilities in comparison and does not have access to gardens, open air and to as much light, which were all features at Stracathro.

“A number of members of staff have also commented on this deterioration in the environment for Mulberry patients.

“Many patients described their experience of being in a mental health ward in Tayside as negative. The physical space, fabric, decoration and atmosphere at Carseview Centre are not conducive to a welcoming and safe space.

“Patients have described it as feeling bleak, which impacts on the ability to improve wellbeing and deliver good therapeutic care.

“Patients have described feelings of isolation, boredom and loneliness. Their interactions with others on the wards – with both other patients and staff – have been
difficult and, at times, frightening.”

The report also criticised NHS Tayside for centralising services in Dundee, including the Crisis Resolution and Home Treatment Team (CRHTT), without consultation, saying it was “not planned”, “there has been detriment to patients discharged from Carseview Centre to the Angus community” and “an adverse effect on patient and family satisfaction with crisis services.”

Inpatient mental health services are delivered by Perth and Kinross Health and Social Care Partnership.

A spokesperson said: “The decision to transfer the Mulberry Unit… was due to a reduction in the number of junior doctors which were allocated to Tayside, meaning we were unable to provide safe and sustainable medical cover to the three general adult psychiatry inpatient sites in Perth, Angus and Dundee.

“Staff in the Mulberry Unit have been transferred to Carseview to look after Angus patients.”

NHS Tayside Chief executive Grant Archibald apologised yesterday to patients and their families.

Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland, he said: “I am absolutely sorry and I apologise to anyone whose relative, or they themselves, feel that the care they got was well short of what they should have expected.”

He pledged the health board will work to rebuild trust with staff and patients.

“Our intention always has been, always will be, is to deliver excellent care,” he said.

“This report tells us that despite people’s efforts things have not happened in that way and we must listen to it, we must learn from it.

“We will redesign, we will rebuild. We will listen to the users, the people who use our services and build that trust with them.

“We absolutely will listen and work alongside our very hard working staff.”