Revamp plans for mental health unit put on hold

Review of county's services stalls refurbishment of Bedford Hospital unit

Plans to redevelop the ‘Dickensian’ Weller Wing at Bedford Hospital have been put on hold while the area’s clinical commissioning group continues to debate its future.

Around £1m was set aside to provide a new inpatient unit at the mental health facility, but because of an ongoing review of the county’s health services, the improvements have been delayed.

South Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust (SEPT), which provides mental health services at Weller Wing, said the process was out of its control. Instead, the review is being conducted by the Bedfordshire and Milton Keynes clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), which had hoped to complete it next month, but are now not expected to file a report until later in the summer.

A SEPT spokeswoman said the trust ‘remains frustrated and disappointed that it is unable to achieve its ambitious plans’ for the site.

She added: “In November 2012, the trust was ready to proceed with the new build re-provision of Weller Wing at Bedford Health Village. Plans were developed, funding agreed and over £1m actually committed to starting initial ground works for the new inpatient unit in Bedford. These have been put on hold owing to delays in commissioning decisions and plans by local CCGs to undertake market testing of services.”

In response, a spokeswoman for Bedfordshire CCG, said: “As local family doctors we remain committed to redeveloping the Weller Wing into a modern unit with the best-possible facilities for our patients.

“We are particularly keen to make sure that mental health services meet all of the needs of our patients and address the issues that are most important for them to get better and keep well.”

Inspectors from healthcare regulator, the Care Quality Commission, said during a visit last December that ‘the environment impacted upon people using the service’ and ‘compromised people’s privacy and dignity’.

Bedford borough councillor, Roger Rigby, said: “Last year’s inspection painted a picture of a Dickensian facility which is not suitable for the 21st Century.

“Patients were worried about sharing four-bedroom dormitories and corridors in the assessment unit had to be used as a thoroughfare by staff when vulnerable patients were waiting to be seen.

SEPT executive director, Richard Winter, said the building was ‘antiquated’ but insisted changes had been made to improve privacy issues.

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