Health chiefs say a controversial shake-up of psychiatric services across Tayside is being hampered by “significant workforce challenges” – exactly as opponents predicted more than a year ago.
NHS Tayside pressed ahead with its planned review in January, despite concerns that many staff would be unwilling or unable to make the move to new cities.
Under the scheme, learning disability inpatient services will be provided at Murray Royal Hospital, Perth, and general adult psychiatry acute admissions centralised in Dundee
However, members of the Perth and Kinross Integration Joint Board have now been told that the majority of staff – around 55% – are unable to move for a variety of reasons.
At a meeting on Tuesday, Gordon Paterson, chief officer of the Perth and Kinross Health and Social Care Partnership, said: “The progress of implementing the redesign programme has been slow and that is partly because of some of the significant workforce challenges, in relation to the proposed transfer of patients and wards from one site to another.
“We need to ensure that we have adequate staffing in place. We need to engage with nursing staff and clinical staff to ensure that that they can transfer from Perth to Dundee, or Dundee to Perth. If they can’t we have to make sure we can suitably redeploy them and there are some alternative options.”
He said: “We recognise that this is an upheaval for staff and we recognise that some staff can’t travel.”
Mr Paterson said it was crucial to get to the next phase of the plan, which involves shifting a ward from Carseview to Murray Royal.
“We are anticipating we will be in a position to progress this early in the new year, notwithstanding the fact we are sensitive to the impact and implications for staffing,” he said.
Independent councillor Xander McDade described the situation as “quite disturbing”.
He said: “At the meeting in January 2018, the main rationale for the redesign – which we were given repeatedly – was that the only way we could safely staff the service was to go ahead with this model.
“That was the clinching argument.”
NHS Tayside’s Alan Drummond said concerns about workforce movement had been raised as a “red risk.”
“It wasn’t a case that staff didn’t want to carry on their care for patients, they were just unable to make the move.
“We raised this as part of the consultation and we were told that the risk would be managed. This is not the unknown we are dealing with, this was raised three years ago.”
Mr Paterson said he was also aware that an independent inquiry into mental health services, led by Dr David Strang, was due to be published in February and could make further recommendations.
Dr Strang said earlier this year that the redesign should be halted to allow for a wider review of health services.