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'Worrying' - Psychiatric intensive care unit in Suffolk to temporarily shut due to staff shortages

PUBLISHED: 19:31 28 March 2018 | UPDATED: 19:31 28 March 2018

The Woodlands mental health unit in Ipswich. Picture: LUCY TAYLOR

The Woodlands mental health unit in Ipswich. Picture: LUCY TAYLOR

Archant

A mental health unit in Ipswich will temporarily shut next month because there are not enough staff to keep patients safe, it has been revealed.

The Lark Ward, a psychiatric intensive care unit (PICU) run by Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust (NSFT) at Woodlands, will close from Friday, April 6.

Staff problems led to the trust reducing the number of beds at the unit, in the grounds of Ipswich Hospital, from 10 to seven in October.

NSFT has now agreed with its commissioners to fully shut the ward until vacancies are filled because it is not safe to keep the remaining beds open.

Pete Devlin, operations director for Suffolk, said: “The safety of our patients and of our staff is paramount, and we will not put that at risk or compromise on that.

“Lark Ward is a mixed sex, PICU and, as such, it needs a higher staff-to-patient ratio, to ensure we can provide more intensive treatment, for the most acutely unwell patients, for short-term admissions.

“Staffing levels will continue to be reviewed and the beds will be reinstated when it is fully safe to do so. With the current mental health vacancy pressures across the NHS, we are considering this is likely to take a few months rather than weeks.”

In the meantime, patients will either be moved to one of NSFT’s general acute wards, another of the trust’s PICU, or a similar unit run by other providers out of area.

An anonymous source who informed this newspaper about the closure said the move was “worrying”.

The inpatient ward offers care to people with severe mental health problems such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

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