Kentmere Unit closure decision delayed

The decision to temporarily close the Kentmere Unit at Westmorland General Hospital has been delayed, pending a fuller assessment of the urgency of quality & safety concerns, Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust has confirmed.

The delay is being made following significant concerns expressed by service users, carers and the community, coupled with the Trust’s desire to be absolutely clear that it has explored every possible option to meet the minimum standards without the need for temporary closure.  This has included further discussion with the Care Quality Commission (CQC) for complete clarity in what is necessary to meet minimum regulatory standards before any final decision is made.

Claire Molloy, Chief Executive said, “I know from the overwhelming feedback we have received from the local MP, the community, our partners, patients, staff and our Governors Council that the services at Kentmere are highly valued. I also know that this has caused anxiety and concern and I am sorry for the confusion or worry people have felt.  

“Since we made the announcement, we have been working with the CQC to understand whether we may in fact be able to safely manage some of the issues in the short term with minor upgrades to meet minimum regulatory standards.   We therefore need to fully assess whether the actions proposed will negate the need for any urgent action, and therefore we will delay any decision about temporarily closing the unit until we have a full assessment of this, taking a final decision with our partners later in the summer.  This means that we will not be closing to admissions as previously indicated.” 

NHS Cumbria Clinical Commissioning Group and Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust have agreed to request that a quality surveillance group is convened.  This will bring together health organisations and regulators to ensure all partners have a shared understanding about whether urgent action at Kentmere is necessary on quality & safety grounds, out with a formal public consultation process.  The Trust will also ensure that the Cumbria County Council Health and Scrutiny Committee are fully briefed following this and before any actions are taken.

Alongside the full assessment, the Trust will work with staff, patients and partners to develop options for an interim service model, so that if a temporary closure is necessary, then the Trust will be able to implement a model that we have shaped with the input of our partners.  We have asked Healthwatch Cumbria to facilitate this process through an independent engagement exercise to support the Trust in listening to the community which will begin in late June. 

The Trust remains clear that the Kentmere Unit does not meet all of the standards of a contemporary 21st century mental health inpatient unit that we want to provide for our patients.  Claire adds, “The Board of Directors are clear that even if the minor upgrades enable us to meet minimum regulatory standards, that it will not tackle the significant longstanding quality and safety issues that would enable services to remain on the Kentmere site as they are in the medium to long term.  However, we will feed our position into a review of the broader mental health inpatient service model which will be considered in a formal consultation process led by  NHS Cumbria Clinical Commissioning Group due to commence later in the year.”

Jane Smith, Lead Governor at Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust said, “The Governors were fully aware of the quality and safety issues at Kentmere through our inspections of the environment in PLACE visits and joint visits with Non-Executive Directors.  We have been able to feed this back to the Board of Directors.  Governors were surprised about the suddenness of the communication to temporarily close the unit which was not undertaken in the way we would have hoped.  The Governor’s Council were subsequently briefed in full by Claire Molloy.  We welcome the delay in decision making and are grateful for the openness and honesty afforded in briefing us on what is a difficult situation for people using the service, their families and staff.  We look forward to working with the Trust on this issue in the coming months through our Governor Mental Health Special Interest Group.”