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Fears inspectors could ‘lose patience’ over stalled safety improvements to Moray’s mental health unit, Ward 4 at Dr Gray’s Hospital

By Lewis McBlane

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MORAY’S acute mental health ward does not meet standards designed to prevent patients hurting themselves, a meeting last week heard, as senior figures fear inspectors may “lose patience” and sanction the hospital.

Dr Gray's Hospital, Elgin - NHS Grampian...Picture: Daniel Forsyth..
Dr Gray's Hospital, Elgin - NHS Grampian...Picture: Daniel Forsyth..

NHS Grampian was promised cash by the Scottish Government for safety improvements at Ward 4, along with a new MRI scanner, but both projects were “paused indefinitely” in January this year.

The Scottish Government predicted a two-year delay to works, according to Dr Gray’s Hospital general manager Alasdair Pattinson, speaking at a meeting of Moray’s Integrated Joint Board (IJB).

The IJB, a joint-effort between NHS Grampian and Moray Council that operates health and social care, also heard that Ward 4 building falls short of health and safety guidelines for keeping patients safe.

And Ward 4 works, bundled alongside a new MRI scanner, would have reduced the number of ligatures.

Plans to partially renovate Seafield Hospital in Buckie were also included in the project, as Ward 4 patients would have been temporarily moved there during the period of disruption at Dr Gray’s.

However, in January, the Scottish Government confirmed that all NHS infrastructure projects would be paused indefinitely in a “hammer blow” for Moray.

IJB member Sandy Riddell said he was worried that, with Ward 4 in its current state, authorities could “lose their patience” and demand improvements at the hospital.

“There has been talk about developing and transforming mental health pathways and services for an awful long time,” he said.

“I have been pushing, personally, for quite a number of years to get that done because I was really concerned that, at any time, the Health and Safety Executive will lose their patience and serve a notice on us.”

Inspectors from the Mental Welfare Commission Scotland, in a report published in January, said they were “pleased to hear” that NHS Grampian had a plan for completing anti-ligature work.

However, the lack of funding means NHS Grampian’s Asset Management Group is now considering whether to pay for Ward 4 works out of the organisation’s own budget.

The next IJB meeting, in May, will feature update the public on whether the health board will fund safety improvements themselves.

Bosses are also considering how mental health services can be delivered in the community more and through closer working with Royal Cornhill Hospital in Aberdeen.

Locks on bedroom and bathroom doors were removed in the interest of safety in 2021, according to an inspection report, a measure which has caused “a lack of privacy and dignity for patients”.

This was still the case in October 2023, the most-recent report claimed.

“There has been a series of work done to the ward, over time, which has reduced the risk of ligature related safety incidents to a certain level,” Mr Pattinson said.

“But not to the level that the Health and Safety Executive require and had required certainly within Royal Cornhill Hospital.”

However, he said that measures had reduced the level of risk.

He added that he “was certainly not aware of any successful ligature related safety incidents in Ward 4 for many years now.”

The meeting later heard that NHS Grampian planned to inform the Scottish Mental Commission and the HSE about how funding cuts threatened the improvements to Ward 4.

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