A junior doctors’ crisis has led to a decision to axe mental health inpatient provision at Stracathro Hospital’s Mulberry unit in a move described by one councillor as the “end game” for the Angus facility.
Campaigners are currently involved in a fight to retain the adult psychiatric ward within the Susan Carnegie Centre amidst fears it will be the key target in a shake-up of Tayside mental health provision due to be decided later this year.
But in a shock announcement, NHS Tayside has revealed a junior doctor shortage has forced them into an interim decision to close the unit from February 1, with general adult inpatient services transferring to Dundee’s Carseview.
An out-of-hours crisis response service at Murray Royal in Perth will also be moved to the Dundee facility.
NHS Tayside said the move would not impact on the ongoing mental health redesign programme, but Angus councillor David Fairweather has said he fears the situation has sealed the Mulberry unit’s fate.
From the beginning of next month, only 18.6 whole-time equivalent junior doctors from a requirement of 31 will be available to NHS Tayside in its mental health services.
NHS Tayside said that situation would make it “impossible to sustain safe services” across the three sites at Stracathro, Carseview and Murray Royal.
NHS Tayside medical director Professor Andrew Russell said, “Our medical teams have been working hard to find a safe, workable and sustainable solution to the shortage of junior doctors but, despite the best efforts of everyone involved, we have no option but to move to our contingency plans. “These impact on both the General Adult Psychiatry (GAP) inpatient service and the Crisis Response Service in Tayside.
“GAP inpatient services are currently provided across three sites – Mulberry ward at the Susan Carnegie Centre in Angus, Moredun ward in Murray Royal Hospital, Perth, and two wards in the Carseview Centre in Dundee.
He continued: “In order to allow us to provide a safe level of care for our patients, GAP inpatient services will be provided from two sites, Carseview and Murray Royal Hospital.
“This will see an interim move of the Mulberry ward to Carseview, with the transition starting on February 1. It may take a few weeks until the ward is fully transferred.
“However, mental health services will continue to be provided from the Susan Carnegie Centre as this interim move does not affect the Rowan and Willow wards, which care for up to 30 psychiatry of old age patients.
“Local consultants from the Mulberry ward are also looking at how the local community mental health models of care in Angus can be enhanced during this interim period.”
Professor Russell added: “The crisis response service currently based at Murray Royal will transfer to Carseview.
“There are no changes to services provided in hours or to the provision of intensive home treatment in Perth and Kinross.
“The out-of-hours assessments will transfer to the Carseview Centre between 3pm and 9am weekdays and at weekends. Staff in both Angus and Perth & Kinross affected will be supported to move to their new workplace.
“The decision to move the Mulberry ward on an interim basis was taken based on the many local and regional mental health services provided in Dundee and Perth & Kinross.
“Junior doctors are crucial to providing a whole range of mental health services in these areas both in and out of hours, including child and adolescent mental health services, learning disability services, psychiatry of old age and regional secure care clinic services.
“This means that the majority of our junior doctors are centred around Dundee and Perth.
“We understand that this decision may cause upset to patients and their families but we cannot compromise the safety of our patients and we simply do not have the right level of medical cover at this time.”
Arbroath councillor David Fairweather said he feared the move would hasten the end for the Mulberry unit.
“This is being described as an interim measure but I am convinced this is the end game for the Mulberry unit.
“Mental health is a major issue, it has been identified as a major issue by the SNP government and yet is desperately under-funded.
“Millions of pounds were spent to create the Susan Carnegie Centre and the Mulberry unit, not too many years ago, to tackle this major issue and it now seems that it has been no more than lip service.
“There has been a complete lack of transparency and I understand a planned meeting of the Integrated Joint Board scheduled for earlier this week was cancelled – only for this to emerge now. “