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Multi-million dollar boost for Mental Services

Multi-million dollar boost in resources for Mental Health Services

A boost in staffing, and in community-based step-down beds, will help to reduce pressure on Wellington Hospital’s acute mental health inpatient unit (Ward 27).

Capital & Coast DHB has today announced a suite of measures to address the high levels of demand on the unit.

Included in the package are:

5 FTE additional staff on the ward,

7 additional community-based staff,

3 new community based treatment and support houses for people with acute needs who would otherwise be in Ward 27,

an additional enhanced community support team to provide daily visits for people with high support needs.

C&C DHB’s Director of Integrated Care, Martin Hefford, says the creation of additional community acute houses is a crucial element of the package.

“Boosting services in the community increases our options for treating patients with acute need or in the period following an acute episode.

“At any point in time between 10 and 12 of the patients in Ward 27 are clinically assessed as ready for discharge, but remain in the ward for weeks or even months until suitable support service can be put in place.

“At the same time, some patients are admitted to Ward 27 by default, because there aren’t enough community based alternative to provide them with the support and treatment they need.

“Both of those situations contribute to excess demand on Ward 27, so it makes a lot of sense to boost that community capability,” Martin Hefford says. “Consumers consistently tell us that they would prefer to be in a small therapeutic environment rather than a big mental health ward – and research supports this preference.”

Martin Hefford acknowledges that on most nights Ward 27 has more patients needing overnight care than there are beds available. “That leads to compromises like having to co-opt other rooms, such as the ward’s library, as bedrooms for patients.”

Martin Hefford says C&C DHB decided to put in place a short, medium and long term strategy to ensure access to acute services and to reduce the overcrowding on the ward.

The short term strategy went into operation in December 2005. It includes special packages of care to help people transition out of the ward, and funding to Pathways Trust for an Enhanced Community Support team - providing daily visits to people with high support needs. The short term strategy is costing $300,000 and has been funded by the C&C DHB Board.

The medium term strategy will be put into place progressively over the next 6 months. It includes 5 extra staff in Ward 27, and a boost of 6 staff to the Home Based Treatment Team. The extra home based treatment team will provide clinical support to around 12 – 15 people in three new community acute houses. The medium term strategy will cost $1 million in 05/06 and up to $3 million in future years.

“We’re delighted that the Ministry came to the party and truly supported this project. They have made $1m of additional blueprint funding available in the first financial year, rising to $3m over time – and we’re determined to use that to create a real difference for mental health patients, families and staff.”

In the Ward itself, the funding allows for the creation of an additional psychiatrist position, an extra psychologist, an additional registrar, a house officer and an improved therapy programme. The additional community staff will include 1 psychiatrist and 6 nurses/allied health professionals.

“The extra staff will help improve the effectiveness of the therapy provided to patients on the ward, helping to reduce the average length of stay which has grown in recent years,” Martin Hefford says.

“We’re moving quickly to recruit those additional staff, and hope to have many of those people in place by early in the new year.”

“The long term plan includes replacing Ward 27 with something more suitable. But we need to make sure we design the right sort of facility to meet the needs of patients over the decades ahead – and that takes a bit of time. We expect the new ward to be built late in 2007,” Martin Hefford says.

Consumers, carers, and community and primary care groups will be involved in the development of the community based acute services and the new ward design.


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