THE number of beds for patients suffering from mental health conditions could be cut at Sunderland’s Cherry Knowle Hospital - with nursing jobs also set to go under new proposals.
Bosses from Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust have said that two psychiatric intensive care units are set to be merged.
Cherry Knowle’s Dene ward and the Greentrees Ward at St Nicholas Hospital in Newcastle both have 14 beds, but a merger of the two is planned to create a single 14-bed facility at the new Hopewood Park in Ryhope, which is due to open this summer.
Also, as part of changes to the current inpatient care system, more services could be delivered in the community, meaning that about 90 beds across the trust’s Sunderland, South Tyneside and Gateshead sites could be axed.
Nursing posts could also be reduced from 64 to 42.
Unions today expressed concerns about patient and staff safety in the wake of the possible changes, which will come under the Trust’s Transforming Services Programme as part of a bid to make cost savings.
Greg Canning, Royal College of Nursing officer, said: “This is one of a large number of areas where the Trust is currently consulting on reducing the number of posts.
“To cut the number of nursing posts in psychiatric intensive care from 64 to 42 is a huge reduction, and we want to see evidence that this will mean that the service remains viable.
“Patient and staff safety must come first.
“I’m meeting with Gary O’Hare, the director of nursing at the Trust, and I will be raising the matter with him as a matter of urgency.”
Sunderland Central MP Julie Elliott said: “Mental health services in the region are presently undergoing change and it is essential that patients’ welfare is at the centre of any changes that occur and that appropriate staffing levels are maintained.
“The plans I have seen for the new Hopewood Park hospital in Sunderland are excellent.
“I look forward to the hospital opening.”
A spokesman for Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust said: “For some time now we have been working with staff, service users, carers and partner organisations to look at ways in which we can redesign our service around the needs of the people we look after.
“This has included a former public consultation in South Tyneside which has now come to a close.
“We are currently consulting with our staff on a number of changes to the way we provide services both inside and outside hospitals.
“The aim of these changes is to ensure that we look after people in the right environment for them, avoiding unnecessary hospital admissions.
“We are also working closely with our trade unions to ensure than no-one loses their job through this process.”