Mental health ward in Ipswich to reopen – five months after staff shortages forced closure

John Bingham, manager of Lark Ward at Woodlands in Ipswich Picture: PAGEPIX

John Bingham, manager of Lark Ward at Woodlands in Ipswich Picture: PAGEPIX - Credit: Archant

A psychiatric intensive care unit in Ipswich which closed on safety grounds due to a lack of staff will reopen next week, it has emerged.

NSFT Staff who will be working on the re-opened Lark Ward at Woodlands in Ipswich Picture: PAGEPIX

NSFT Staff who will be working on the re-opened Lark Ward at Woodlands in Ipswich Picture: PAGEPIX - Credit: Archant

Lark Ward, located at the Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust’s Woodlands unit on the site of Ipswich Hospital, was temporarily shut in April.

It led to patients being treated in other units many miles from their families and homes.

However, after a successful recruitment drive, five of the 10 beds at Lark Ward will re-open on Monday.

Peter Devlin, NSFT’s operations director for Suffolk, said: “We have so far recruited 27 staff to work on the ward with more to start in the coming weeks, as well as four agency staff who are on long-term contracts.

Joe Phillips who has been recruited by NSFT to work on Lark Ward as an assistant psychologist. Pict

Joe Phillips who has been recruited by NSFT to work on Lark Ward as an assistant psychologist. Picture: PAGEPIX - Credit: Archant


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“Five of the 10 beds will reopen on Monday and our plan is to reopen the remaining five beds over the coming months.”

John Bingham, an experienced nurse and adult acute ward manager for the trust, is now leading the Lark Ward team.

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He said: “The reopening marks a new chapter for the unit and we are looking forward to delivering high-quality, effective care which meets the needs of our service users and plays a vital role in their recovery journey.”

Richard Watson, deputy chief officer and chief transformation officer of the NHS Ipswich and East Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “NHS Ipswich and East Suffolk and NHS West Suffolk clinical commissioning groups welcome the re-opening of Suffolk’s psychiatric intensive care unit and hope that the families and friends of people in the county who are affected by mental health issues will be reassured to learn that Lark Ward is now ready to accept patients again.”

Jayne Stevens, manager of Suffolk User Forum (SUF), a service user led mental health charity, said: “It is very re-assuring that this very specialist Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit will be operational again, providing much needed local, treatment for the most acutely unwell patients.”

Anne Humphrys, co-chairman of Suffolk Parent Carer Network, said “We have been kept fully informed by the Trust of the extensive programme of work they have undertaken to ensure the right staff are in place and are assured that patient safety has been their priority for Lark Ward.”

Jane Millar and Chris Hedges, co-chairmen of the Healthwatch Suffolk Mental Health Focus Group, and Andy Yacoub, chief executive of Healthwatch Suffolk, said in a statement: “We are aware of the challenges faced by the Trust and understand why the closure of the Lark Ward was a necessity.

“Unfortunately, the consequences of the decision to close have been significant and we must be cognisant of the impact on patients and their families; many of whom have been sent away from their local communities to receive appropriate care. We simply cannot underestimate the impact of this on their wellbeing and that of their families or carers.

“A phased approach is entirely appropriate but the Trust must aspire to make all beds available for patient care at the earliest opportunity.

“We sincerely hope anything that needed to be learned from this closure has been reviewed and measures are put in place to prevent this situation from re-occurring.”

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