Dr Maliepaard, Consultant Psychiatrist for NHS Highland, explained that the four patients who are currently in the ward have had their needs individually reassessed to ensure that they could be safely transferred to other units in Highland with the best possible fit for their ongoing care.
He said: “Clinicians, nurses and service managers have made a shared decision that an ongoing difficult situation was no longer safe to manage necessitating the need to temporarily close the Unit. The temporary arrangements will mean that a small number of patients may have to be admitted at other units in Highland.
“We have found suitable alternative units for the four patients who were in the unit and of course we have remained in close contact with their relatives to keep them advised of the situation. We will work with them to ensure the transfers are well planned.”
The 8-bed unit has for some time not been able to function at full capacity. Staff within the unit, as well as local service and nursing managers, have worked hard over a long time to try and keep the unit open.
Pauline Craw, Rural General Hospital Manager explained that the immediate focus is on recruiting staff to enable the unit to safely re-open as soon as possible. Discussions about the temporary redeployment of staff while the unit remains closed have already started.
Gill McVicar, Director of Operations for North and West Highland, said: “I am very disappointed and sorry that we are having to take this action with Harmsworth but agree with the assessment of the local team. I apologise for any inconvenience to all concerned. I would also like to take the opportunity to thank those involved for sterling efforts in recent weeks and for the ongoing work to ensure that the needs of the patients are met. We will keep everyone updated and involved.”
An update on older adult mental health services was recently presented to the NHS Highland Board. Its recommendations are currently being considered and will guide the continued development and improvement of the service. It is recognised that there will always be a need for some patients to have assessment and treatment in hospital and the Board is committed to providing a high quality service that is safe and effective.