Seriously ill children sent to Devon after Fishponds ward closures

May 10 2021
Seriously ill children sent to Devon after Fishponds ward closures

MORE than 40 seriously ill children have been sent out of the region for treatment in the last 10 months, after two mental health units in the Fishponds area closed.

The Priory in Stapleton closed its intensive care unit in July, then its Brunel ward shut in September, while the 15-bed Riverside at Blackberry Hill Hospital has been closed for refurbishment for more than a year. 

The situation means there are currently no mental health beds for children and young people in Bristol, with the nearest now in Devon. 

Retired GP Dr Charlotte Peterson, of campaign group Protect our NHS, highlighted the situation at a meeting of the Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group’s governing body on April 15. 

She said: “In the last 10 months, 42 young people and children have been admitted to residential beds outside the BNSSG area.

“This tragic statistic represents a system that sends seriously ill young people far from their family and friends, thus adding to the trauma and family anguish of an already desperate situation.

“How can this have come about in the fifth richest country in the world? How is it that since the closure of beds in the Priory, nothing has been done to resolve the lack of local inpatient facilities?”

The Priory blamed the closures on an unsustainable reliance on agency staff, after a damning Care Quality Commission report raised concerns about the safety and quality of services. 

Closed since March last year, the Riverside unit's reopening has been pushed back to June because the roof needs to be replaced. 

CCG chief executive Julia Ross said: “Sadly, children do always go outside BNSSG for some bed-based services. 

“It was an unknown fact that the Priory would close at the same time as the Riverside unit was closed for very much-needed reconfiguration.

"When it opens, it will be a much better and more appropriate environment in which children can be treated. 

“We’ve been working closely with NHS England and the Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership to ensure that, as far as possible, we had alternative services in place that would prevent young people needing to go into bed-based services. 

“Our strategy is that children only go into bed-based services where that is absolutely the only option. We work hard with partners across the system to try and avoid the need for bed-based care – it’s often not the best thing for young people with mental health needs.”

Ms Ross said the CCG had approved a business case for a “very significant piece of work” to address the impact of COVID-19 on people’s mental health needs. 

By Stephen Sumner, Local Democracy Reporting Service

Caption: Protect our NHS campaigners Dr Charlotte Paterson and Pamela Trevithick