A VITAL mental health ward at Clacton Hospital will be closed following a “behind-closed-doors” decision in a move slammed as “just a way to save money”.

North Essex Partnership Trust will close the Peter Bruff mental health ward at Clacton Hospital as part of its plans to transfer mental health services to Colchester by July.

Trust governor Andy Wood, who is also a county councillor for Clacton North, said he was disgusted that the decision had been taken earlier this month by board members without any prior consultation – or the knowledge of governors.

“It was hidden on the agenda, which didn’t make any direct reference to the closure of the Peter Bruff ward,” he said.

“Basically, the ward will be moving to Colchester, to a building the trust owns, and a spare ward in Clacton will be used for older people.

“Because they don’t own the Peter Bruff ward – they just lease it from NHS Properties – they want to consolidate their wards just to save money “I understand the financial constraint and that their Care Quality Commission report wasn’t too good.”

“But what I’m really concerned about is that there was no consultation He added: “They said the reason there was no consultation is because the ward is not closing, it is just moving site.

“But in layman’s terms, it is a closure – and I’m concerned about the people of Clacton.

“We have a huge problem with mental health issues in Clacton and they haven’t really thought about that. They have just seen a way to save money.”

In October, a whistle-blowing nurse revealed to the Gazette the unit was planned for closure – with services expected to be transferred to Colchester Hospital.

At the time, North Essex Partnership denied there were plans to close the ward, but would not categorically deny any changes would take place.

The nurse, speaking at the time, said: “I feel that given Clacton’s mental health population – the last I heard, it was the largest per capita of any area in the UK – this agenda is based firmly on saving money and not in patients’ best interests. It is wrong.

“The trust tried this years back for the same reasons and the community was outraged and plans were dropped.”

It is eight years since the Gazette successfully campaigned to save the ward from closure after a review of mental health services.

Clacton and Frinton Gazette:

Services at Clacton's Peter Bruff ward in Clacton will be transfered to Colchester.

HEALTH bosses claim plans to move the Peter Bruff ward from Clacton to Colchester are part of a £600,000 scheme aimed at improving services.

They said the mental health ward – including its name – would be moved to the King’s Wood Centre, in Turner Road, Colchester.

But the current Peter Bruff ward, which is owned by NHS Properties, will now remain empty unless another use is found. Dementia services will, in turn, be transferred to another empty ward in Clacton Hospital’s Landermere Centre.

A spokesman for the North Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust said: “Under the scheme, the currently vacant McIntyre ward at the Landermere Centre will be fully refurbished and become the new Bernard ward (for older adults, male dementia patients) currently located at the King’s Wood Centre, in Colchester.

“The space released at the King’s Wood Centre will then be extensively refurbished and improved and will become the new Peter Bruff ward (for adult, acute, mental health patients) currently at Clacton Hospital.

“The current ward names will be retained and moved to their new locations. “The changes will mean all age functional services will now be concentrated in Colchester and all older adult dementia care will be located in Clacton.

“Having these services spread across two geographical sites has historically presented difficulties with medical staff having to travel between the locations.”

The trust said Care Quality Commission inspections had criticised its ability to provide adequate privacy and dignity to its patients, but the changes meant medical and nursing cover during periods of high activity would be improved.

Toni Scales, area director for the trust, said it owned the vacant McIntyre ward, but rented Clacton’s Peter Bruff ward.

She said cash saved on rent by bringing the wards into buildings owned by the trust would go back into patient care.

“This plan will not only improve the environment for all our patients, give staff more time with patients and release cash to put back into front-line care, but by co-locating services in this way there are many new and exciting opportunities to develop services and improve clinical care,” she added.

Colchester’s Bernard ward will relocate to the McIntyre ward site in Clacton in April and the Peter Bruff ward will move to Colchester in July.

The Kings's Wood Centre at Colchester Hospital

THE 17-bed Peter Bruff ward provides both male and female accommodation, but the  layout only allows the “limited” options of either five male beds and 12 female beds, or seven male beds and ten female beds.

The trust said in its new location, Peter Bruff ward would still have a 17-bed capacity, but far greater flexibility for male and female beds through the use of a “swing zone”.

It is claimed the changes mean there will be no need to transfer patients between Colchester and Clacton locations to enable them to be admitted to a specific male or female bed.

The move will also bring male ward and female dementia wards on to the same site.

The new ward will see the introduction of assistive technology, a serenity suite, decoration and the development of a dementia friendly garden.