80 Mental Health Jobs Face The Axe

NHS bosses at East Lancashire’s mental health hospital Calderstones have announced 80 posts are to be axed and two wards closed. The hospital, based in Mitton Road, near Whalley, takes in patients with learning difficulties, sometimes referred to the facility by courts. Now the Calderstones NHS Trust has revealed two wards are planned for closure, the first in October with a second pencilled in for spring 2007. Each closure will result in the loss of about 15 beds.

The closures are to take place because the trust claims care facilities in the community are now more effective, and patients can be released earlier than in previous years, to home care facilities. As a result, not as many beds are required.

Over the next 12 months, there will also be a reduction of 80 posts within the trust, from the 1,300 employed. No redundancies are planned, and all affected staff will be given the opportunity to take employment elsewhere in the trust.

Russ Pearce, chief executive of the trust, said: “Previously we had a number of people who were ready to go but had nowhere to go. As a unit we only provide a service for people with a learning disabililty. So it’s people that have been receiving care here with a learning disability who have got to the end of that treatment.”

Currently the trust is working on a new £14.2million medium secure unit with 36 beds, which is due to be completed by 2008.

As a result of the development, Mr Pearce said the two affected wards would have been closed prior to the opening of the unit anyway.

Mr Pearce added: “As local communities become more effective in delivering services there has been a decline in the demand for hospital beds. It must be stressed that investment in the long term future of services at Calderstones continues with the £14.4 million replacement medium secure unit which opens in 2007 and will provide state-of-the-art facilities for our clients.

“Calderstones remains the largest specialist provider of NHS care for people with forensic learning disabilities and the extremes of challenging behaviour in the region and the trust continues to work in partnership with health and social services to develop further care facilities in the community throughout the North West.”

Nobody from Unison, the trade union which represents staff working at Calderstones, was available to comment, but the union confirmed it was aware of the plans and would be meeting with staff.