BEDS and nursing posts are to be reduced as part of a major shake-up of mental health services across Sunderland and the North East.
The plans have been revealed by Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust.
Proposals under consultation include increasing the availability of community care, which it is hoped will help to drastically reduce the number of hospital admissions.
Many members of staff working for the trust may now have to change their place of work or shift patterns as a result of the changes.
The trust says it recently had almost 200 in-patient beds being unused over three different weeks.
A new strategy of diagnosing and treating patients as well as delivering community care is set to be rolled out in Sunderland and South Tyneside next month, with the rest of the North East set to follow later this year.
Cherry Knowle’s Dene ward, and the Greentrees Ward at St Nicholas Hospital in Newcastle, both provide psychiatric care and have 14 beds.
A merger of the two sites is planned, which will create a single 14-bed facility at the new £60million Hopewood Park in Ryhope, due to open in August.
It is also proposed that the challenging behaviour service at Penshaw Ward in Monkwearmouth Hospital, will go, with more care to provided in the community in its place.
Inpatient facilities for Sunderland and South Tyneside will be centralised at Marsden Ward at Monkwearmouth Hospital.
Royal College of Nursing operational manager Estephanie Dunn said: “While we welcome both the capital investment in the new hospital and also the principle of delivering more services closer to home, the reality is that the trust is making these changes in the context of being forced by Central Government to meet a 4.5 per cent annual cost improvement target.
“That equates to a £13million year-on-year funding shortfall for the trust.
“Mental health services are facing a disproportionately high cut in funding.
“Even the Government’s own minister, Norman Lamb, has said that the funding settlement for 2014-15 is ‘flawed and unacceptable’.
“With one in four of the population now requiring some form of mental health support at some point in their lives, we need to see significant additional investment in mental health community services.
“Nurses and health care assistants are understandably concerned about what the changes at the trust will mean in practice, both for the patients they care for, and for the services more broadly.”
A spokesman for the trust said: “The vast majority of our services are provided in the community with only three per cent of our patients ever needing to go to hospital, yet we spend more than 50 per cent of our resources for services on our inpatient beds.
“Our aim is to improve quality in both our inpatient and community services whilst at the same time meeting the cost savings required of us.
“In terms of our inpatient beds, the trust currently has over 650 beds and as an example, in the last three weeks we have used in the order of 470 beds each day.”