Calls for secure mental unit in county

MOVES to build a psychiatric intensive care unit in Suffolk have today been welcomed by a mental health charity.Ian Hartley, chief executive of East Suffolk MIND, said creating this kind of secure unit in the county would improve patient care and save health trusts money.

MOVES to build a psychiatric intensive care unit in Suffolk have today been welcomed by a mental health charity.

Ian Hartley, chief executive of East Suffolk MIND, said creating this kind of secure unit in the county would improve patient care and save health trusts money.

The desperate need for a secure unit in Suffolk came to light yesterday when The Evening Star revealed that 44 people walked out of St Clement's hospital while detained under the Mental Health Act (sectioned) last year.

Mr Hartley said: "I think everyone agrees that the existing facilities are not as good as they should be.

"The number of absconders is worrying and I think it is partially due to the environment they are in.

"The Parham ward is used for people who are very upset and it is an old pre-fab building that is not really fit for purpose."

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Currently patients whose illnesses are so severe they need to be kept in a locked unit for their safety have to be treated outside the region.

However, there are still people at St Clement's who need to be detained under the Mental Health Act and stopping them from leaving hospital can prove difficult for staff because of the poor facilities.

The most severely ill patients are kept on the Parham ward but this does not have the staff or facilities to be run as a secure unit.

The nearest NHS psychiatric intensive care unit (PICU) is in Cambridgeshire but the Suffolk Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust are currently working on plans for substantial redevelopment of St Clement's Hospital.

A new PICU would be included in the first phase of development.

Martin Royal, director of strategy for the trust, said: "The kinds of people that would be in a PICU are those that have a propensity for violence to other people or harm to themselves.

"Sending them to private providers as we sometimes have to do now, can cost three times as much as it would to provide the service ourselves."

Mr Hartley said: "Sending patients out of the county for treatment can be distressing for them and their families. It is also a financial drain on the trusts.

"Keeping facilities local, and having them run by local authorities has to be better for everybody."

What do you think of the lack of a PICU in Suffolk? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send us an e-mail to eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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