Recruitment struggles further delay re-opening of hospital ward

Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust deputy chief executive Cath Byford 

Hellesdon Hospital and, inset, Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust deputy chief executive Cath Byford - Credit: Archant

Struggles with recruitment have further delayed the re-opening of a mental health hospital ward which has now been closed more than a year.

The Rollesby ward at Hellesdon Hospital, a psychiatric intensive care unit, has been closed since significant damage was caused to it in May 2021.

The damage prompted the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) to carry out a £700,000 renovation project for the ward, which has since been completed.

However, the Trust is yet to re-open the ward, with bosses exploring the possibility of using it as a single-sex ward.

While these plans are yet to be finalised - with Norfolk and Suffolk county councils putting it under scrutiny - the Trust's board of directors heard that issues with recruitment were also holding the project up.

The Trust is currently looking for a matron and a ward manager to run the facility, having already recruited nine nurses to work in it.

But until these two key managerial roles are filled, the nurses cannot start work.

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Cath Byford, deputy chief executive of NSFT, said the uncertainty surrounding the ward's future was hindering the recruitment drive.

She said: "These are key leadership roles that we need for the ward to re-open, but a big difficulty is that until we know whether it will be a single-sex unit for women, potential applicants do not know exactly what they are applying for.

"This may be making people more reluctant to come forward, which is making things difficult."

If the plans do go ahead, it would see women treated in the Rollesby ward, while men in need of the same care would receive it at the equivalent facility in Ipswich.

Mrs Byford added: "Typically, for men and women who experience trauma the support they need is different.

"The guidance from the Care Quality Commission is that intensive care units are far more effective as single-sex.

"Even before the ward closed this was something we've had to look at, as there were occasions when it was just not safe to treat vulnerable women in mixed-sex wards.

"We have had some concerns about the travel between Norfolk and Suffolk. However, it is much better this than the travel from Northumberland to Norfolk, for example, which is what we've had to do in the past."