The South Eastern Health Trust is reducing the number of beds for acute psychiatric patients despite public concern that there is already a shortage.
The Assembly has approved proposals for the creation of a new single mental health facility at Lagan Valley Hospital in Lisburn, to replace three mental health units across the South Eastern area. The move will see the number of beds reduced from 69 to 67.
However, a Bangor woman whose relative took his own life after he was sent home because of a bed shortage, fears a further reduction — no matter how slight.
The woman, who did not wish to be identified, said: “If they are building a new unit my biggest concern would be that they would increase the number of beds. At present there are not enough.
“The family were told they had to watch my relative like a hawk 24 hours a day while they waited for a bed to become available. He managed to sneak out though. If there had been a bed for him he may have been alive today.”
She also raised concerns at the distance families of patients from the far flung parts of the district will have to travel to visit loved ones.
The proposals by the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust (SEHSCT) were approved by the Department of Health last Friday, February 4.
The trust said it was confident that with continuing investment in community services “there will be a diminishing requirement for acute inpatient provision and that the quality of the in-patient provision would be increased where resources were concentrated at one location”.
It also plans to develop 18 additional community places in Ardcora “thus ensuring that people can experience living in a community setting in Downpatrick”.
Director of Adult Services, Desi Bannon said: “This model of service delivery promotes recovery and independence and I look forward to working with users, carers and professionals in their implementation”.
The proposals also include changes to day care facilities. In disability services, three day centres in the Ards and Bangor areas, all of which are in accommodation which needs updating, will be replaced by one brand new and one refurbished centre. The location of the new centre has not been decided.
Both the mental health and physical disability reforms require capital investment and the timescale is likely to be 18 months to two years, says the Trust.
A SEHSCT spokesperson said: “The proposal is not based on closure of one and retention of two but on the development of two centres that will provide an environment that meets the needs of those who use the service.”