Board to consider recommendation on adolescent mental health unit

Posted on 28th March, 2006

The Board of Devon Partnership NHS Trust will today (28 March 2006) consider the recommendation of an independent review to proceed with the closure of the Larkby Unit in Exeter over the next six months. Larkby is a 12- bed unit that provides Devon and Cornwall’s inpatient service for adolescents (13-18 year olds) with serious mental illness.  It provides intensive care and treatment (known as Tier 4 services) and employs about 25 staff. The independent review follows a joint complaint, submitted in March 2005, by a number of families that had concerns about the quality of the service at Larkby.  The panel comprised a consultant psychiatrist, a nurse consultant, a child protection professional, a patient advocate and an independent Chair. The Larkby Unit is already earmarked for closure in October 2007 following a decision to relocate the peninsula’s Tier 4 inpatient services for adolescents to Plymouth.  This decision was made by the Strategic Health Authority in 2002 after a public consultation on the future configuration of the service.  Commenting on the issue, Chief Executive, Iain Tulley, said:  “One of the main recommendations of the independent review is that, in the light of a number of concerns about the unsuitable physical environment provided at the unit, Larkby should close within the next six months.  If this recommendation is not implemented, then the review indicates that a programme of work needs to be carried out at Larkby that will require significant investment. “It would clearly not be a good use of the Trust’s limited resources to make a major investment in a unit that is scheduled to close next year.  It would seem that the only practical and sensible solution is for us to support the panel’s recommendation and proceed with the accelerated closure of Larkby.  The matter has been discussed by relevant members of our Clinical Cabinet and they are in agreement that this is how we should proceed. “There is an excellent team of staff at Larkby and it is important to understand that the panel’s recommendation to close the unit is made in relation to its poor layout and physical environment -which are not conducive to high quality, therapeutic care - not the clinical practices of the doctors and nurses that work there.  We will be doing everything we can to support these staff through the closure and in securing alternative employment within the Trust, with the new service in Plymouth or elsewhere in the local NHS.”   A full business case is about to be submitted to the Strategic Health Authority for a brand new, purpose-built unit to provide Tier 4 inpatient services to adolescents from Devon and Cornwall.  Built on the Derriford Hospital site at a cost of around £3 million, this 12-bed unit will provide a safe, modern environment where a
multi-disciplinary team will be able to provide a full range of services and activities as well as occupational, art, music and talking therapies.  The interim arrangement for Tier 4 inpatient services, up until the opening of the new unit in October 2007, is likely to involve the use of a unit at Mount Gould Hospital in Plymouth.  This will be a modern, 12-bed ward that can provide safe and appropriate inpatient accommodation for adolescents requiring Tier 4 care.