Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Staff and Beds Axed in Health Shake-Up

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Staff and Beds Axed in Health Shake-Up

Article excerpt

Byline: Helen Rae Health Reporter

FRONTLINE staff and the number of beds are set to be cut in a major overhaul of mental health services in the North East.

Changes will see the merger of two psychiatric intensive care units, a reduction of in-patient beds and the axing of some 22 frontline nursing posts.

Fears have been raised over how the changes could affect some of the most vulnerable patients in the region.

But health officials at Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust insist their Transforming Services Programme will improve quality of care for patients, while delivering efficient cost-savings.

Patients and staff in the South of Tyne area are being affected by the proposals, and the trust says it has future plans to look at the way services are delivered North of Tyne.

Under the trust's plans, two psychiatric intensive care units will merge into one. The services at Greentrees Ward at St Nicholas Hospital in Newcastle and the Dene at Cherry Knowle Hospital in Sunderland both have 14 beds.

It is proposed to merge these resources into a single 14-bed facility at a new hospital at Hopewood Park, Sunderland, which is opening later this year. Meanwhile, a overhaul of in-patient care will see more services delivered in the community, resulting in the reduction of approximately 90 beds across the trust's South Tyneside, Gateshead and Sunderland sites. Staff are currently going through a consultation process as it is proposed to reduce the number of nursing posts, across all staff banding levels, from 64 to 42.

Union officials and MPs raised concerns that the move will impact negatively upon those in need of mental health care.

Blaydon MP Dave Anderson said: "Mental health services should be protected. We are in the situation where mental health issues are getting more awareness and it's not good to hear that services are being affected in the region. …

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