Mental health unit could close as soon as end of June

Horton Hospital ENGNNL00120121209110538
Horton Hospital ENGNNL00120121209110538

Inpatient care for elderly people with conditions such as dementia, bi-polar disorder and depression is to be moved to Oxford as early as this month.

Oxford Health, the trust with responsibility for mental health care in hospital and the community, aims to minimise admissions and boost community services so more people receive treatment and support at home.

Anne Brierley told Banburyshire’s Community Partnership Network (stakeholders in local health care) on Tuesday that mental health is block-funded rather than resourced in an ongoing way as general medical care is.

“We are dealing with increased demand for older mental health care, especially dementia, within existing resources and we are trying to see how to make the best use of the pot we have,” she said.

Ms Brierley said money is being reinvested in community teams with early intervention helping avoid admissions.

She said the number of inpatients at the Fiennes Unit at Banbury’s Horton Hospital has dropped, with only four of 17 beds currently in use.

“There are more staff than patients and that is not good,” she said, adding that the trust is having a ‘dialogue’ with families and clinicians about new admissions.

Responding to concerns by Dr Peter Fisher of the Keep the Horton General Group (KTHG) she said night time crisis care would be provided to patients in their homes by a rota of on-call consultants who would travel from their homes around the county.

Mr Fisher said: “Closing 40 per cent of beds in the county while the elderly population is growing is a gamble.”

Ms Brierley said: “We are doing a lot of work with the community teams on their workloads. We will formally review this change in six months time. There is always the risk of unforeseen consequences and the Fiennes will remain there. Oxford Health will work with Oxford University Hospitals Trust on integrated care for older people.”

Peter McLoughlin of KTHG suggested the Fiennes’ 17 beds be contracted out to help meet a national shortage.

Keith Strangwood, also of KTHG, expressed concern that the Fullbrook Unit in Oxford might not be able to manage more patients since it had sent overflow in the past to the Fiennes Unit. He said the stress of travel for relatives visiting would be excessive.

Ms Brierley said it was ‘very unlikely’ pressure on beds would mean patients would be sent to Buckinghamshire. She said continuity of visits was ‘really important’ to make patients’ return home easier.

In a statement, KTHG said: “OH’s recent statement paints a very positive picture. What it does not spell out is how much consultation has been with carers and that even with the reduction in the length of stay achieved, the average stay is still 11 weeks per patient.

“An overall reduction of beds in Oxfordshire by nearly 40 per cent, at a time when the number of patients is known to be growing, is a leap in the dark which may prove to have been unwise.”