Dundee Health and Social Care Partnership has confirmed plans to merge two wards at a specialist mental health facility.
Ward 2 at the Kingsway Care Centre will join Ward 3 in a move the partnership says is “in response to fewer patients being admitted to Ward 2”.
Kingsway is a specialist centre that looks after older adults who have severe dementia, often with associated aggressive behavioural problems.
Health chiefs insist the ward is only undergoing an “operational closure” but a plan to cut Kingsway’s four wards to three has been proposed for years.
A spokeswoman for the Health and Social Care Partnership (HSCP) said: “Ward 2 in Kingsway Care Centre has been merged with Ward 3 and more beds have been added to Ward 3 to accommodate these patients. This is an interim operational decision in response to fewer patients being admitted to Ward 2.
“Over the past years, Dundee Health and Social Care Partnership has introduced new ways of caring for people with mental health illnesses in line with best clinical practice. The partnership has invested considerably in our community services for older people with mental health illnesses to provide more support and care for people in their own homes or in home-like settings. This work has involved the development of a support team to help people who have been diagnosed with dementia, community mental health teams and a care home team.
“A number of staff engagement sessions about the interim change have been carried out and patients and their families affected by these changes have been kept informed.”
Staff were reportedly told the ward was closing during Mental Health Awareness Week in May.
One worker, who spoke to the Tele anonymously, said they had been “sickened” by the public silence on the plans.
They said: “I am sickened listening to politicians constantly telling the public about how important it is that we invest in mental health issues. As far as I can see there has been no consultation with the general public.
“We want answers as to why this decision has been made when we are constantly being told how importantly the NHS takes mental health issues.”
Dundee HSCP is managed by an integration joint board (IJB) funded by Dundee City Council and NHS Tayside.
The reductions were alluded to at a meeting of the IJB in Dundee yesterday by HSCP resource manager Jenny Hill, and challenged by Unison NHS rep Raymond Marshall.
Mr Marshall said: “We’ve had some correspondence from staff that they haven’t been told about what’s happening at Ward 2. Is it closing or is it remaining operational?”
HSCP chief officer David Lynch said: “There is an operational closure. If we judge that beds remain empty long enough we can safely and securely reduce their numbers.”
A report presented to the meeting yesterday noted that a “further reduction in the bed base at Kingsway Care Centre” is likely to take place this year.
Health chiefs say the shift is part of a long-term strategy to tighten up so-called POA – psychiatry of old age – care, which the HSCP overspent on by around £123,000 last year.
A report produced in 2017 noted changes to POA services “cannot be accommodated on the Kingsway site” because it is not purpose-built for the job.
Health chiefs also want to see more people cared for at home.
An extra £362,000 will be invested in community carers to counter the hospital cuts
Dundee’s elected MSPs, the SNP’s Joe FitzPatrick and Shona Robison, have been made aware of the changes at Kingsway. A spokesman said the pair were due to meet Mr Lynch to discuss them on Friday.