The new Â£3.7 million inpatient unit at Chorley and South Ribble Hospital has been fitted with 30 standards beds for adults, six psychiatric intensive care beds for women, private bedrooms and bathrooms, therapy spaces and garden access.
It is based in the former Oakfield Unit – the hospital’s previous mental health unit which was shut down in 2015 and transferred to mental health hospital The Harbour in Blackpool.
There are also eight beds in a specialist Mother and Baby Unit – called Ribblemere – for new mothers experiencing mental health illness to be cared for alongside their newborn babies.
Lisa Moorhouse, Head of Operations for the Mental Health Network at Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust, said the Trust is “so excited” to offer “new and improved” mental health services in central Lancashire.
She added: “By having an inpatient mental health service Central Lancashire, it means that we can offer local people access to high quality care and treatment closer to home.
“This is the final phase of a long term programme of development work to reconfigure our inpatient mental health services so that people can access the support they need when they most need it.”
In 2015 the Oakfield Unit was closed and transferred to The Harbour, Blackpool, a specialist mental health facility with 154 beds.
It meant that those visiting loved ones at the Oakfield had to make an extra 24 mile journey door-to-door via car up the M61, M6, and M55 motorways.
A spokesman from Lancashire Care said that the Oakfield was shut because “it had old dormitory style bedrooms, limited therapeutic space and limited access to outdoor space”.
They added: “The relocation of the Chorley wards to the Harbour enabled the major construction works to take place in the former Oakfield Unit.
“It also served to ensure that the people who use our services would be cared for in accommodation of a high standard until the programme of works was completed.”
Leader of Chorley Council, Coun Alistair Bradley, has welcomed the ward following the closure of the Oakfield Unit.
Coun Bradley said we need more facilities like this new inpatient unit “because The Harbour is full and people can’t get in there”.
He added: “Residents also can’t get in touch with families [because of where it is located]. It’s not good for them or their families.
“I really welcome this and the change in track.”
Coun Bradley also called for the unit to be the start of more centralised healthcare for Lancashire “because we have a massively growing population”.
He said: “We are hamstrung by the system.”
Lancashire Care have also confirmed that the new inpatient unit is operating as an additional site to assist mental health needs – and will not impact on specialist mental health services at Guild Lodge in Preston.
Guild Lodge – or the Secure Mental Health Business Unit – is made up of three medium secure wards and one low secure ward able to facilitate inpatient care for up to 54 residents.
A Trust spokesman said that Guild Lodge is “highly specialised” so is “completely separate” to the new unit at Chorley.
The Â£3.7 million of funding for the inpatient unit was secured by the Trust through capital funding to assist with delivering ‘integrated care across the region’.
County is in ‘crisis’
Lancashire’s most senior police officer said the county is in a mental health “crisis” - with his officers bearing the brunt of it.Chief Constable Andy Rhodes said the number of patients being seen by officers instead of criminals has been increasing for years – and said the number of people being sectioned could soon double.He said: “If police officers are sent to incidents involving mental health, we have cases with very limited options and invariably end up in A&E.“We anticipate soon that there will be a doubling of Section 136s [Section 136 of the Mental Health Act allows officers to detain those in need of “care or control] and it is totally unacceptable.“It is not something happening everywhere in the country either.“There are more and more police officers standing next to patients beds who have been taken in under Section 136, and this can be over a number of days.“It is not good for the patient’s mental health to have these officers next to them constantly. They need the support of health professionals.”In a frank and honest interview with the Post last month, Ch Con Rhodes said the force is “picking up the pieces of a system that is falling apart”, with hospital emergency departments also “struggling”.He said 20,000 out 70,000 police response hours in the county each month are now dealing with mental health issues.“There are massive cuts being made to services across Lancashire and it is escalating into a crisis with the system simply not coping,” he said.“Sadly, there is not a night or day that goes by where we aren’t sent out to someone intent on self-harm, and when this happens it takes precedence over anything else.“So quite often we are unable to deal with shoplifters or respond to people reporting crime when these incidents happen.“I joined the police force in 1991 and there was an element of dealing with mental health then, but we were able to deal with pub fights, car thefts and shoplifting, for example.“It is now dominating police time and resources throughout the country.“We need to drastically rethink the services across the county. If you look at Northumberland, for example, they are doing really well and what they are doing should be copied. They have set up a specific helpline that is helping people with mental health issues.“They have also invested heavily in mental health crisis teams who come out and support people 24/7 in their own homes or in public spaces, and they are specifically trained to deal with it.“We need more mental health beds in hospitals. A lot of people are having to be sent outside of Lancashire because there are none available. Referring back to Northumberland, when our people visited recently they had 68 beds available for mental health patients. Lancashire usually has none.“This crisis is fixable and there should be no excuses as other counties are doing it far better and it needs to be done very quickly.”
Mum calls for better services
Chorley mum Tara Palin has been calling for better mental health services in Lancashire after her teenage daughter was put in a specialist mental health unit in Middlesborough at the age of 14.It saw her moved around the north including to Stafford, Newcastle, and Greater Manchester.Now, aged 18, her daughter resides at The Harbour in Blackpool.Tara, 41, said: “It’s fantastic news. I am glad that someone has listened because for years and years we have wanted more.“People don’t think about when there is an emergency incident and you can’t just drop everything because of the distance you have to travel.“It is really fantastic to have this new unit.”And with visiting hours at The Harbour between 1pm and 8pm, Tara – who is the landlady of Chorley’s Red Lion pub – said: “You can’t always be there for them when they need it.“It would be great for her and help her because she would have her family closer by.”Tara is now hoping that these facilities can be extended to children aged 14 to 18.“They’re just teenagers,” Tara explained.“It’s hard enough being one without receiving proper help if it’s needed.”