Shocking conditions of hospital building

FORCED to work in a sub-standard building with leaking roofs, inadequate heating and a condensation problem, a fed-up health worker has today blown the whistle.

FORCED to work in a sub-standard building with leaking roofs, inadequate heating and a condensation problem, a fed-up health worker has today blown the whistle.

The woman who did not want to be named provided the Evening Star with these shocking pictures of Minsmere House which houses elderly people with mental health problems.

She fears losing her job but was so worried about the health of the patients who are being treated there that she decided to come forward.

She said: "It's shocking when some of our elder patients have to live in a building which is nothing short of a glorified beach hut, where there is water leaking through the roof, where there is fungus growing through the ceiling and the smell of damp everywhere, where there are holes in walls and patients having to sleep in cold, inadequately heated dormitories and rooms."

Built in the 1970s, the 35-bed building on the Ipswich Hospital site is used for elderly patients with mental health problems.

The worker who took the photos said: "The people that we care for are elderly and very vulnerable. They can pick up chest infections and other illnesses easily.

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"I find it quite upsetting and appalling that these people are having to sleep in areas where there is just condensation running constantly down the windows.

"I get fed up with hearing them say they are putting all this money in to the NHS. It's not coming here, we're not seeing any of it."

One of the most worrying pictures shows a sign that was put on a door to warn people of water dripping on to a light switch.

The Star asked a qualified electrician from Ipswich his opinion. He said that the situation could be "potentially lethal."

The electrician, who asked not to be named, said: "This is not good practice. Something like this should have been seen to straight away rather than a sign put up.

"I'm surprised they haven't got someone there with the know-how to come and isolate the circuit.

"There is a possibility that someone could get electrocuted in a situation like this."

The health worker stressed that although the building is in poor condition, the work being done by staff is still "first class".

She said: "When you see the pictures it looks like the place is dirty but this is stuff that can't be cleaned. The cleaners do a fantastic job, as do all the staff. The patients receive all the love and care they should, it's just the environment that's letting them down."

Bosses at the Suffolk Mental Health Partnership Trust readily acknowledge the problems with the building and say there are plans underway for it to be completely rebuilt.

Robert Bolas, director of nursing for the SMHPT, said: "We recognise the building is not ideal and it will be included in the first-phase of our extensive redevelopment programme."

The proposals would eventually see Minsmere House completely rebuilt as well as many of the buildings on the St Clement's site being moved to Heath Road.

It is hoped this will be done within the next two years but, in the meantime, a £50,000 programme of improvements is due to start at Minsmere House within the next few weeks.

Rotten window frames will be replaced along with all the fire doors, and work has already begun on the roof to stop water leaking through. The outside of the building will also be redecorated.

David Leckie, director of estates and facilities for the trust, denied claims that a lack of money was the problem.

He said: "The financial position is not one of the issues in this case. There is always substantial money for repairs but new regulations are continually being introduced which means you are always having to re-prioritise.

"Over the last two or three years a substantial amount of money has been spent on redecoration of the inside of the building - flooring has been replaced and rooms redecorated.

"The money we are spending over the next couple of weeks should solve the problems with the damp.

"We realised that we had to do something. It just was not going to get us through."

Mr Leckie said staff had been to inspect the room where the water was running on to the light switch and were satisfied the problem had been resolved. The sign is, however, still there.

He said that because the building is on the hospital site, but owned by SMHPT, there is sometimes confusion over who should be contacted when a problem like that arises.

He pledged to re-iterate this information to staff to stop a problem like this arising again.

He said: "We are just going to have to spend a bit of time reconfirming things for everyone in here."

Tell us about your experiences of Minsmere House - good or bad. Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send us an e-mail to