Concerns over mental health beds at QE2 Hospital in Welwyn Garden City
PUBLISHED: 15:00 16 November 2013
The psychiatric unit at Welwyn Garden City’s QE2 Hospital has lost 10 beds since April, despite being stretched to capacity, an investigation has revealed.
The hospital’s two mental health wards, Mymms and Welwyn, are both currently full, and the trust responsible for services in Hertfordshire told the BBC in August the latter was “110 per cent full”.
The BBC’s Freedom of Information Act request also revealed the trust had closed 36 beds since April, including 10 in Mymms Ward, and every mental health ward in Herts was at least 67 per cent full on August 1.
Paul Farmer, chief executive of the national mental health charity Mind, said: “In many trusts, demand for beds is far outstripping the number of beds available and the latest figures suggest that over 1,500 mental health beds have been closed across the country since April 2011.
“These figures show the extent to which people with mental health problems are being failed when they are at their most unwell.
“The consequences of not getting the help you need in crisis can be catastrophic, as serious as an untreated physical health emergency, and yet we see people turned away or not given the help they need far too often.”
A spokeswoman for the Hertfordshire Partnership NHS Trust, which currently has 10 vacancies in its 361 Hertfordshire beds, responded: “We have worked hard over the past few years to make sure we have the right number of beds and importantly the right alternatives to admission which can be more appropriate than inpatient wards.
“A new £42 million state-of-the-art 86-bed inpatient unit will open early next year [at Harperbury near Radlett] to replace our old wards on the general acute hospital sites. This represents a huge step forward in supporting the recovery of those who need to use our inpatient services and maintains our overall number of beds.
“We have also invested in new alternative services, including two new acute day treatment units [at the QE2 and Watford].”
The trust described Welwyn Ward’s 110 per cent occupancy in August as a statistical blip caused by an old computer system.