Men could face trips to Ipswich for mental health intensive care

Hellesdon Hospital, which plans to build five new wards on Wensum Valley land. Picture: DENISE BRADL

Hellesdon Hospital, which is soon to complete refurbishments of its Rollesby ward - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2018

Men in need of urgent mental health treatment could be required to travel to Ipswich for their treatment - because a ward of Hellesdon Hospital may become female only.

The Rollesby ward at Hellesdon, the region's main mental health hospital, has been closed for refurbishment since March 2021.

The ward, which provides beds for people in need of urgent care after being detained under the Mental Health Act, is due to re-open in December once the renovation has been completed.

One of the options being considered for the newly-refurbished ward is to use it as a single-sex intensive care unit that will cater only for women.

And should this come to fruition, it would mean that men in need of this specialist care would need to be treated at Ipswich Hospital, the intensive care ward of which would become a men-only facility.

A report to Norfolk County Council's health overview and scrutiny committee states that the region's mental health trust had said "there is national clinically-led reasoning that having single gender services in psychiatric intensive care unit (PICU) services, particularly women, is better for service users".

However, concerns have been raised that should the plan go ahead it would see people sent away from their family support bubbles for their care.

Councillor Emma Corlett

Councillor Emma Corlett - Credit: Archant

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Emma Corlett, who previously served as mental health champion for Norfolk County Council before the role was scrapped, said the move would put patients and staff at risk.

She said: "If the PICU is made single-sex that will mean one in Ipswich and one in Norwich with males and females having to travel away from home and support network to get the intensive support they need.

"The flexibility of having PICU beds on the same site as acute beds is you can swiftly move someone who can't be safely nursed in an open ward.

"Introducing a journey and no doubt lengthy transfer process puts patients and staff at risk."

She added that as it would be a "significant change" it should be consulted on publicly. 

The report adds that the mental health trust had acknowledged that any decision over the proposals would need to be discussed with commissioners and other partners before it could be finalised.

The Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust has been approached for comment.

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