Hospital at risk as staff struggle to cover mental health shortages

A mental health hospital has been forced to reduce its number of beds because of ongoing staff shortages

A mental health hospital has been forced to reduce its number of beds because of ongoing staff shortages

Picture: Alamy

New Craigs Psychiatric Hospital near Inverness has 33 vacancies, including 25 for mental health nurses.

The NHS Highland service has been under pressure since November 2016, but is now faced with gaps in the rota on an almost daily basis.

This has forced the hospital to temporarily reduce its number of adult general beds from 48 to 42.

Mental health services general manager Michael Perera said: ‘This has left us with significant pressure in inpatient services and if we don’t act now the safe running of the hospital is at risk.’

He said numerous efforts to advertise the vacant posts had been unsuccessful and the hospital faces deepening problems at the end of the year, when nine mental health nurses plan to retire.

Thank you for current staff tackling the shortfall

But Mr Perera thanked nurses for being 'incredible flexible' and working extra shifts to cover the shortfall.

The general manager admitted the decision to close beds may mean some patients are required to leave the Highland area to receive treatment, on a temporary basis.

The hospital has approached retired mental health nurses to consider part-time work, while mental health nursing students have been interviewed earlier than normal to persuade them to stay in the area once qualified.

Social centre staff have also been temporarily redeployed to provide activities in ward areas, to help at meal times and to support those needing enhanced levels of care, to recoup some nursing time.

Immediate action needed

Scottish Liberal Democrat party health spokesperson Alex Cole-Hamilton has called on the government to take immediate action.

‘The government’s track record on mental health is dismal. Child mental health waiting times are the worst on record, hundreds of adults are waiting over a year for treatment and the Suicide Prevention Strategy is over 450 days late.

‘Scottish Liberal Democrats have consistently asked the government to break the cycle of years of under-investment in mental health and deliver a step change in the way we treat it, but we are still a long way off the required transformation.’

The Scottish Government said in January it announced an 11% increase in training places for mental health. It had also provided funding for almost 80 nursing students, including some mental health, in rural and remote areas to qualify through the Open University.

A government spokesperson added: ‘We will support NHS Highlands to continue their efforts to recruit to these posts, and we note that the reduction at New Craigs Hospital is a temporary measure to preserve patient safety.’

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