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NSFT confirms half of Lark Ward’s patients moved out of area as charity expresses concern over closure

PUBLISHED: 17:39 16 April 2018

The Woodlands unit in Ipswich, where the Lark Ward is based. Picture: LUCY TAYLOR

The Woodlands unit in Ipswich, where the Lark Ward is based. Picture: LUCY TAYLOR

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Three vulnerable patients were sent to a different part of the country for care following the closure of an Ipswich mental health unit, it has emerged.

Julie Cave, Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) interim chief executive. Picture: NSFTJulie Cave, Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) interim chief executive. Picture: NSFT

Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) has confirmed half of the six patients admitted to the Lark Ward when it shut on April 6 were sent out of area, while the others were “safely and appropriately” discharged.

The ward – Suffolk’s only psychiatric intensive care unit based at the Woodlands centre – has been closed temporarily because of staff shortages.

Mental health charity Suffolk User Forum (SUF) has joined the chorus of voices criticising the trust for poor communication around the decision.

Jayne Davey, SUF manager, said: “Patients, service users and family carers are extremely concerned and worried about vulnerable people now being placed in beds out of the area and in some cases long distances from their home.

“If there had been more involved communication between the trust and organisations such as SUF, we could have been in a better position to offer valuable support to patients and families affected by this decision.

“Working together is an opportunity for radical change going forward. We need to take a long-term view, involving anyone with an interest in mental health to have a voice and to be part of creative thinking for mental health care in Suffolk.”

Healthwatch Suffolk and Suffolk Parent Carer Network have expressed similar concerns.

All three charities met with NSFT bosses last week to discuss how they can work together to benefit patients.

Julie Cave, the trust’s interim chief executive, said: “We really welcomed the continued support offered and had a very positive meeting.”

NSFT was rated ‘inadequate’ and placed into special measures in October last year.

Mrs Cave said it had been difficult to involve all partners in some changes carried out within NSFT since then because they needed to be made quickly to protect patient safety, but she added commissioners and regulators were consulted.

She added: “But as we now move out of the urgent phase and we are developing our ongoing improvement plans we should, once again, establish that close stakeholder working, wherever we can.”

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