Mulberry Unit faces “interim” closure due to staff shortages

Mulberry Unit is based at Susan Carnegie Centre
Mulberry Unit is based at Susan Carnegie Centre

A shortage of junior doctors will mean that next month General Adult Psychiatry inpatients at the Mulberry Unit are to be transferred to Carseview in Dundee.

It was announced this afternoon (Thursday) that NHS Tayside would be implementing a contingency plan to deal with staff shortages and that this would take effect from February 1, 2017.

According to NHS Tayside, just over half of the required doctors would be would be available in mental health services next month, 18.6 whole-time equivalent junior doctors from a requirement of 31, an unsustainable number across three sites at the Mulberry unit, Carseview, and the Moredun ward in Perth. They have cited a national shortage of trainee psychiatrists and changes to numbers of junior doctors available to the health authority.

NHS Tayside Medical Director Professor Andrew Russell said: “Our medical teams have been working hard to find a safe, workable and sustainable solution to the shortage of junior doctors but, despite the best efforts of everyone involved, we have no option but to move to our contingency plans. These impact on both the General Adult Psychiatry (GAP) inpatient service and the Crisis Response Service in Tayside.

“GAP inpatient services are currently provided across three sites - Mulberry ward at the Susan Carnegie Centre in Angus, Moredun ward in Murray Royal Hospital, Perth, and two wards in the Carseview Centre in Dundee. The Crisis Response assessment is currently provided in Murray Royal Hospital and Carseview.”

Mr Russell confirmed that services at the Mulberry Unit would see an interim move to Carseview as of February 1: “In order to allow us to provide a safe level of care for our patients, GAP inpatient services will be provided from two sites, Carseview and Murray Royal Hospital. This will see an interim move of the Mulberry ward to Carseview, with the transition starting on 1 February. It may take a few weeks until the ward is fully transferred.

“However, mental health services will continue to be provided from the Susan Carnegie Centre as this interim move does not affect the Rowan and Willow wards, which care for up to 30 Psychiatry of Old Age patients. Local consultants from the Mulberry ward are also looking at how the local community mental health models of care in Angus can be enhanced during this interim period.

“The Crisis Response Service currently based at Murray Royal will transfer to Carseview. There are no changes to services provided in hours or to the provision of intensive home treatment in Perth and Kinross. The out-of-hours assessments will transfer to the Carseview Centre between 3pm and 9am weekdays and at weekends. Staff in both Angus and Perth & Kinross affected will be supported to move to their new workplace.

“The decision to move the Mulberry ward on an interim basis was taken based on the many local and regional mental health services provided in Dundee and Perth & Kinross. Junior doctors are crucial to providing a whole range of mental health services in these areas both in and out of hours, including Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services, learning disability services, Psychiatry of Old Age and regional secure care clinic services. This means that the majority of our junior doctors are centred around Dundee and Perth.

“The interim moves we are planning ensure that the limited number of junior doctors we have are able to care for the whole range of Tayside patients in the safest and most appropriate environments.

“We understand that this decision may cause upset to patients and their families but we cannot compromise the safety of our patients and we simply do not have the right level of medical cover at this time. Our doctors and consultants are clear that it is only by invoking these contingency plans that they will be able to continue to provide safe and effective mental health and care services for people across Angus, Dundee and Perth & Kinross.”

According to NHS Tayside doctors and consultants in mental health services had previously advised Tayside NHS Board and the Chief Officers of Angus, Dundee and Perth & Kinross Health and Social Care Partnerships that they had developed a contingency plan which would allow the clinicians to continue to provide safe, effective patient care in mental health services in the event of any significant challenges which would impact on the running of the service.