Staff at Hergest mental health unit say they are 'scared to work there'

Members of staff at a Gwynedd mental health unit have said they are “scared to work there”.

Speaking anonymously, ten current and former employees of the Hergest mental health unit have expressed worries about staffing, increased demand for beds and the unit’s management at Ysbyty Gwynedd in Bangor.

"I work ridiculous hours,” one staff member told ITV Wales’ Welsh language current affairs programme, Y Byd ar Bedwar. “We're burnt out.”

"The stuff I've seen is horrific. I'm worried for the safety of the patients. I'm scared that something big is going to happen,” said another.

"The staff are doing the best they can. But it's impossible to do the job without more staff."

Staff say they are burnt out

With the majority too scared of speaking openly, one former employee was willing to share his concerns.

Having worked at Hergest since the 90s, Professor David Healy worked as a psychiatric consultant there. He says the behaviour of the management team contributed to his resignation in 2020.

"Nobody wants to work there because the conditions are unpleasant and uncomfortable, and they are over-reliant on locum staff."

"If you get rid of people who talk out about safety issues, if you get rid of the best staff, not only are people going to die, but day-to-day care is getting worse. That's what's happened over the last 10 years."

One former patient who feels let down by Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board is Dylan Parry, 35, from Anglesey.

After trying to kill himself in 2017, he was driven to the Hergest Mental Health unit, but there were no beds available to him.

"It's disgusting that there are no beds around at all. I felt like there was no other place to turn."

Dylan was told there was a bed for him at the Priory mental health hospital in Darlington, County Durham.

Dylan Parry says he "never wants to go back" to Hergest

He was there for seven weeks before returning to the Hergest unit for a week.

"I never want to go to Hergest again. People with all kinds of mental illness were crammed into one big room.

"I didn't have therapy or treatment while I was there.

"I don't think that's down to the staff. They didn't have enough staff to look after all the people who were there."

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In a statement, Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board said they have made "good progress at the Hergest unit in recent years”, including "improvements to standards of care and changes  which have ensured a safer mix of patients".

"The majority of our patients receive high quality care and we are deeply sorry where patients, their families or carers feel that we have not met the standards they expect,” a spokesperson said.

They also said they are "well aware of the challenges that remain at the unit and working so hard to make further improvements". 

The spokesperson said the board is “working very hard with staff to foster a positive, open, learning culture” and promise that staff “will be listened to and that improvement happens as a result".

They said "it’s disappointing that some staff don’t feel able to speak up about their concerns" as there are "a number of ways for them to do this”, including an anonymous platform launched last year.