Decision on closure of St Andrews Ward expected in September
By Daniel Mumby, Local Democracy Reporter
WELLS residents will find out in September whether their city will lose all its acute mental health beds.
The Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) currently funds mental health facilities for people of working age in Yeovil, Taunton and Wells.
The CCG announced in January that it would be consulting on plans to close the Wells ward by the end of 2020, with all the beds being relocated to Yeovil.
Health bosses have now confirmed the business case for the closure will come back to the CCG board for approval in the early autumn – despite a large response against the closure in the consultation.
There are currently four acute mental health inpatient wards in Somerset – Rydon Wards 1 and 2 in Taunton (near Musgrove Park Hospital), Rowan Ward in Yeovil (near Yeovil Hospital) and St Andrews Ward within the Priory Health Park in Wells.
The CCG has carried out a detailed review of how well these facilities are operating, to see how inpatient care can be provided in both the safest and most effective way for patients and staff.
The official consultation ended on April 12, with nearly half of the responses coming from residents of Wells or the surrounding towns and villages.
An update on the proposals came before a virtual meeting of the CCG’s governing body on Thursday, July 30.
Of those who responded from Wells, 75 per cent opposed relocating the beds while only 16 per cent were in favour.
Those who opposed the change made the following arguments as to why the beds should not be moved:
• Increased travel time and cost, including lack of public transport between Wells and Yeovil – which would hit low-income houses, the elderly and disabled particularly hard
• Removing the beds will result in a “general downgrading” of mental health services across the Wells area
• Additional stress caused to patients and carers, resulting in fewer visits to patients and therefore a negative impact on their recovery
• Staff could be deterred from travelling to Yeovil, leading to loss of experienced and skilled NHS workers
Andrew Keefe, deputy director of mental health and learning disability commissioning, said people’s concerns about travelling from Wells to the relocated beds would be taken on board.
He said in his written report: “We will explore and identify options to mitigate the travel issues raised through the consultation.
“We are expecting to bring a business case to the governing body in September, although acknowledging we may experience some further impact of Covid-19.”
Board member David Heath – a former MP for Somerton and Frome – said Somerset’s unique and diverse geography made it difficult to provide consistent services across the county.
He said: “We are faced with the incredibly inconvenient geography of this county – it just doesn’t work. If you were planning a county, you wouldn’t put the major towns where they are.
“If we get urgent care right, a lot of the other issues will start to fall away.
“I was surprised that so many people who use the Wells ward don’t actually come from Wells.”
The business case for relocating the beds from Wells to Yeovil will come before the CCG’s governing body on September 24.