AN ACUTE shortage of beds in mental health units is forcing psychiatric patients to be treated at the Royal Cornwall Hospital (RCH) at Treliske, the West Briton can reveal.
The lack of bed space has been caused by the temporary closure of Longreach House, in Redruth, with psychiatric wards at Bodmin Hospital now full to capacity.
The situation has led to some mental health patients being treated outside the county, while others are being admitted into the RCH in Truro.
The Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, (CPFT) which is responsible for psychiatric care, is also offering treatment in patients' homes because they cannot be admitted to mental health units because of the shortage of beds.
Building safety issues at Longreach House were identified in May, forcing its closure.
It was constructed in 2003 under a Private Finance Initiative (PFI) contract and is owned and managed by Redruth Facilities Ltd (RFL), a subsidiary of Semperian PPP Investment Partners.
A significant number of defects have been found and it is now expected that Longreach will not be able to reopen until November.
Dr Ellen Wilkinson, the CPFT's medical director, said this week that since May it had been operating with fewer than half its usual number of acute psychiatric beds.
"This is as a result of the temporary closure of Longreach House after serious fire safety concerns came to light during a major refurbishment programme.
"Contractors have been on site undertaking a significant programme of work to identify and rectify the defects. However, a substantial number of further failings have since been identified."
She said they had put in place a "number of interim measures" to provide alternative care options for people in Cornwall "where safe and appropriate".
She added: "For example, staff from Longreach are working with the home treatment teams to provide additional support to people in their own homes or at Bodmin Hospital.
"We're also using all our available beds at Bodmin Hospital and some patients are being treated outside Cornwall when an admission is needed.
"There are occasions when our patients' physical health requires urgent treatment from the specialists at Treliske.
"In these instances patients will be treated there, with our continuing support, and discharged by Treliske following completion of their treatment, with return to acute mental health care if there is a clinical need.
"All our clinicians continue to work very hard to ensure patients receive the right care in a safe environment and we are very concerned about the impact this sustained closure is having on our patients and their families. We continue to ask Redruth Facilities Ltd, and their parent company Semperian PPP Investment Partners, to rectify the building's defects as a priority.''
"We look forward to being able to reopen Longreach House as soon as we are assured that patients can safely be care for there," said Dr Wilkinson.