Kentmere Unit to remain open pending delayed consultation

The Kentmere Unit at Westmorland General will continue to remain open pending a full public consultation.

The Board of Directors for Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust met on Thursday 24th November to discuss options for the future of the mental health inpatient unit in Kendal.

In May, the Trust announced that there were a number of issues with the environment on the mental health inpatient ward, including limited access to outside space and the use of dormitory style rooms which restricts privacy and dignity. The Trust listened to the views of patients, the public and staff and at the July board meeting it was agreed that the unit would remain open pending a full public consultation by the NHS Cumbria Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), which was due to start in late 2016. However, since that decision was made, the CCG consultation has been delayed which has led to uncertainty about how that delay will affect the ward.

In order to address this uncertainty, the Board met again in November to consider the risks of keeping the unit open for an extended period of time pending the delayed consultation. The Board decided that the ward should keep operating as the risks of temporarily closing the ward outweigh the risks of keeping it open at this time. If the risks change prior to there being a public consultation, then the Trust would need to consider this.

The Board also considered proposals for some further improvements to be made to the environment on the unit. However, while there are some improvements which can be made, there are some environmental issues which still cannot be addressed; there isn’t space on the unit to turn the dormitory style rooms into single bedrooms, for example. The unit as it currently stands does not comply fully with national standards, or offer the same high standard of accommodation that is available in other mental health inpatient units, both within Cumbria and nationally.

Since the issues were identified, the Trust has undertaken a piece of work to assess the risks of the current environment and identify how these risks can be reduced and managed in order to keep the mental health inpatient unit open. A number of improvements have already been made on the ward, including increasing staffing levels, introducing additional staff training and replacing the furniture in the Section 136 suite to comply with national standards. The 136 Suite is a place of safety where people can be taken to be assessed for mental illness.

Stephen Childs, Chief Executive of NHS Cumbria Clinical Commissioning, said:

“In October NHS Cumbria CCG’s Governing Body agreed to delay the start of the consultation. This decision was taken to allow consideration of alternative mental health inpatient reconfiguration options.  These include new options in the Morecambe Bay area. As they involve a number of providers and require further engagement with stakeholders, we need some time to fully explore these options. NHS Cumbria CCG is currently working towards a boundary change which will affect the governance arrangements to effectively carry out a countywide consultation until after April 2017.”

Claire Molloy, Chief Executive of CPFT, added: “We understand that there has been a lot of uncertainty surrounding the future of Kentmere. Throughout this, our clinical team and the staff who work on Kentmere have been dedicated to assessing the potential risks and identifying solutions to ensure that the people of South Lakeland receive safe and appropriate care for their needs. We are still concerned that the unit does not meet national standards; we will continue to monitor the situation and will be working with the Clinical Commissioning Group on the future consultation.”