Mental health patients 'neglected' as staff fear 'another Tawel Fan'

Credit: itv wales

Pressure on staff at a mental health ward in north Wales is leading to the neglect of patients, a leaked letter warns.

In a document sent to management, and seen by ITV Wales, staff working on Tegid Ward in the Ablett Unit of Ysbyty Glan Clwyd, say conditions and the demands placed on them mean that patients are at times being neglected.

Tegid Ward is in the same unit as Tawel Fan ward. A report in 2014 found 'institutional abuse' on Tawel Fan. This lead to the closure of the ward and Betsi Cadwaladr University health board being put into special measures in 2015.

Writing to senior managers, staff on Tegid ward say they feel unheard and undervalued, leading them to feel "hopeless about any changes being positive".

They say that the health board is failing to learn lessons from multiple reports following the Tawel Fan scandal into how the organisation is run.

The letter states: "We don't want to see what happened with staff at Tawel Fan happen to Tegid as we all put in 100 percent."

There are also accounts of patients being inappropriately assigned to Tegid ward. In one instance, the letter states, dementia patients were placed on the ward. The letter continues: "It was upsetting for the staff knowing that Tegid is not the right environment. It is confined and there is nowhere for them to walk... the impact resulted in two patients being restrained, which we feel was not a fault of themselves. These could have been preventable through an appropriate placement according to their needs."

Concerns are also raised about staffing levels. The letter details multiple vacancies and staff being moved to other wards meaning there isn't enough support for patients. The letter states: "We have physical needs patients that require two staff at are we expected to round and change an incontinent lady when there is only one staff available - we feel this is becoming a neglect of their needs."

The letter also highlights concerns about ongoing building work at the unit, with staff saying they've suffered headaches caused by the noise and the ward lacking ventilation and light. There is also a staff account of a workman falling through a roof into a patient bedroom, raising the question, from staff, of whether a risk assessment had been carried out or if there was asbestos in the roof.

Responding to the letter and the concerns raised within it, Gill Harris, BCUHB’s Executive Director of Nursing, said: “We treat any concerns relating to patient safety and staff wellbeing very seriously, and encourage our staff to report these to us so they can be thoroughly investigated, and acted upon.

“The latest phase of an £8m refurbishment programme for our mental health units has seen building work take place on Tegid Ward at the Ablett Unit, which once completed, will deliver a number of improvements for both staff and patients.

“Upon being made aware of the concerns that staff on Tegid Ward had about the impact of this building work, in consultation with both patients and staff we undertook a set of immediate actions to allow this work to be completed as quickly and as safely as possible. We continue to hold a daily meeting with staff to ensure any quality and safety issues are discussed within a multidisciplinary forum.”