Psychiatric Inpatient Unit to cease operating from Kentmere, Westmorland General Hospital

The psychiatric inpatient unit at Westmorland General Hospital will permanently close over the summer following quality and safety issues raised by the Care Quality Commission.

The Kentmere Unit comprises up to 12 beds for people living in South Lakeland with acute psychiatric conditions.  The Care Quality Commission outlined in their report published in March that the Kentmere Unit and associated Health Based Place of Safety did not meet the expected standard set out in national guidance, including same sex accommodation.  Their report said that this placed people who use these services at risk and did not provide an environment which supported good care and treatment.  

This is a longstanding issue for which we have taken a series of actions to improve over a number of years.  However, all possible options to improve the environment have now been exhausted on the Kentmere site and at the quality summit last month, the CQC validated our concerns that the alterations we have made are not sustainable, and have been clear that we should not continue to tolerate this.

Therefore, the Trust Board of Directors have agreed to permanently close the 12 bedded psychiatric inpatient unit at the end of June.

Admissions to the unit are already being minimised due to the quality concerns and admissions to the unit and the adjoining health based place of safety will cease at the end of May.

In the meantime, we are utilising capacity in our other inpatient units including opening four additional beds on Dova Unit in Barrow in Furness and expanding community services to provide crisis resolution and home treatment services 24/7 so that we can support more people at home, where appropriate. 

Interim arrangements to ensure patients in South Cumbria receive high quality care are being developed with staff and patients and we expect to implement these from July.  The medium to long term strategy for the provision of inpatient beds across Cumbria, including South Lakes will form part of a countywide mental health consultation being planned for later this year.

Dr Andy Brittlebank, Medical Director said:

“We want our patients who are in need of inpatient care to have access to accommodation in line with the rest of our units across the county.  All of our other units are provided in single sex environments with single rooms to protect privacy and dignity and have access to outside space.  The facilities at Kentmere do not and cannot meet these minimum standards.  The unit is provided in dormitory style accommodation and there is no dedicated outside space for patients and limited access to shared outside spaces. Over the last year we have taken a number of steps to improve the privacy and dignity of our patients including putting up divides between the dormitory beds and increasing our staffing levels so that we can ensure patients are escorted for access to outside space. However what is clear is that we have exhausted all actions possible within the current environment and we simply cannot provide single rooms or better access to outside space from the footprint of the Kentmere Unit.” 

We are talking to our patients and carers and ensuring they are fully informed and that their care plans are appropriate for their needs.

Staff based on Kentmere are being fully briefed and will be provided with a range of alternative options for redeployment, including into the community based teams. The Trust will not need to make any redundancies.