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Suspension of service at Briseham Unit

Posted on 17th December, 2004

Devon Partnership NHS Trust has announced the suspension of the service provided at the Briseham Unit in Brixham. Occupancy levels at the unit have been falling significantly over recent weeks and it is also becoming increasingly difficult to provide adequate levels of qualified nursing staff at Briseham and other units across South Devon.  Managers and consultants at the Trust have concluded that the combination of these factors has made the continued running of the unit unsustainable. In recent months, services have continued to be delivered at all of the units for older people in South Devon but this has often been made possible only through the readiness of qualified nurses to be flexible in where and how they work.  Suspension of the service at Briseham will mean that the limited nursing resources available can be deployed more effectively across the patch. Dr David Somerfield, Lead Consultant Psychiatrist for South Devon, said: “We are understandably disappointed that it has become necessary to suspend the service at Briseham, especially just before Christmas.   Given the occupancy levels at the unit and issues around staffing, however, it does appear to be an unavoidable course of action. 

“I would like to reassure local people that we still have adequate facilities to provide acute mental health care and treatment for older people in South Devon, including those in Paignton, Totnes, Newton Abbot and Torquay.” Commenting on the issue, Chief Executive Iain Tulley said:  “I would like to acknowledge the vital part that our nursing staff have played in helping to address this situation.  Recruiting and retaining trained nurses is becoming a significant challenge for us right across South Devon.  Their readiness to do whatever is needed - wherever it is needed - has meant that we can make the best possible use of our nursing resources across the area and I am extremely grateful for their continued support.  “Briseham provides a very important service for people in South Devon and we have not taken this decision lightly. However, we are in a position where a unit with 19 beds is usually only accommodating a handful of patients and the economics of this situation are simply not sustainable. “We will continue to review the position but it seems very unlikely that the Briseham Unit will reopen in its current form.  We will, however, explore alternative uses for the building. “We are all too aware that some local people have very strong feelings about the Briseham Unit and that this decision is likely to cause concern – particularly at this time of year. Regrettably, it will also cause inconvenience for a few patients and their families and carers. However, we are hopeful that they will accept the rationale behind our decision and understand that we really have no other course of action open to us.  In theory, we might be able continue to spend a disproportionate amount of money on keeping the unit open – if we could staff it adequately - but this would impact on our ability to fund other, equally deserving, services.

“It is critically important that people understand that this decision is not about wider disinvestment in mental health services for older people in South Devon – it is about a single unit that has become unsustainable in its current form.  I give my personal guarantee that we will continue to look at how, where and by whom care and treatment is best provided in this part of the county and that we will seek to ensure that it receives adequate investment and support.” The suspension of the service at Briseham will mean that one or two patients will need to be transferred to one of our other inpatient units in South Devon, next week. One patient was due to be admitted to Briseham for respite care over the Christmas period and alternative arrangements will be made to accommodate this patient. The day care service currently provided at Briseham will continue to be provided as locally as possible and every effort will be made to minimize the inconvenience for patients and carers.

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