Saturday, 20 December 2014

Its the BITO Christmas Night Out!

Tonight the Beds in the Orchard team are on their way out to celebrate what has been a very successful few weeks of very hard work. 

This is the part where we all can join together and have some fun, especially for those of us who've not been able to join in the coffee and cake-fest that has been the cornerstone of a lot of the campaign team's involvement.

We're looking forward to a night of good food, good company and probably fizzy stuff to celebrate Christmas and the campaign in general.

Let the good times roll!

Thursday, 18 December 2014

We're on the last straight and close to the finish!

Has it all gone quiet at Beds in the Orchard?  Not really, there's just a lot going on in the background.

The past week or so has been busy for the Beds in the Orchard team, but mainly in preparing for Christmas rather than campaigning for beds.  The Christmas trees are up, the lights are shining and the presents mostly wrapped.  Of course the main present that we want is the return of the beds to women.

So, is this going to happen?

Yes and sooner than The Harbour opening.  This is a big change from a couple of weeks ago when the Trust looked into whether they could swing the beds back and reported that it wasn't possible.  Now the information is that the CCG has said that they need to be returned to female before The Harbour opens and they are working hard for that to happen.

This is good news and there has been a lot of excitement among the team because someone from LCFT said that it would be by Christmas, but as usual there is a difference between the message via the official route and the information given to someone involved with the Campaign by other LCFT staff.

One person had a member of LCFT on speakerphone so they and their friend heard that person tell them both that the beds would definitely be open by Christmas.  The Official line from LCFT via our spokesperson is that its only a Maybe by Christmas as there are a lot of things that need doing and that the person from LCFT hadn't said it was for definite.

So who is right?
Two people heard the man from LCFT say it was for definite.  The same man has said via the official line that they didn't say it was for definite.  We think there's a bit of ass covering going on there to be honest.  One person getting the wrong end of the stick, fine, but two.  Big. Fat. HMMMMMMM. So while we agree that no one misheard what they were told over the phone, it just wasn't true and shouldn't have been said.

However this is not the important stuff! 

The important thing is that they are actually trying to reopen the beds to women by Christmas.  They can't guarantee it as it will take a lot for this to happen and sometimes these things just aren't possible.

  1. They are trying to close down the beds to men in order to reopen them to women. 
  2. They have people who are in private beds at the moment at its important to get them back into Trust Beds.
  3. They are looking into ways to reduce male admissions.
  4. They have managed a small reduction at the Orchard to free up a bed.
  5. They are doing what they can but can't guarantee it, so hopes should not be got up.

This smells of success!
BUT While it looks like we're going to be successful, we're not going to have any grand announcements until we have them back for sure and we know they won't be returned to men as soon as we turn our backs.

A lot of work has gone into this campaign. Some people have joined in close to the end and their input has been great, but this has been a long slog since October when we first heard about the closure.  Its taken hard work, time, lots of investigation, FOI requests, lots of legal advice and communication with the press.  We're bloody proud of what we've achieved, but there's no way that we're going to announce a victory before we've actually won for real.

So as we are down to the last bit of the whole campaign, we are going to hand over the keys to Philippa, the campaign spokesperson and founder along with Lisa and Roz, the managers and bloody scary women to deal with the Trust, so we can get on with enjoying Christmas and not get over excited before we actually get the beds back.

They'll keep you all updated, Officially updated and hopefully the news will be good and soon.


Thursday, 11 December 2014

Lancaster Guardian Once More...

Beds in the Orchard went back into the Lancaster Guardian for the second time today.

If you're a regular follower of this blog, you may remember our first mention in the Lancaster Guardian where we were told that the closure to women was because of those long dark winter nights.

Things have moved on a lot since then, but we kept in contact with the Guardian and they decided to talk more about our campaign in today's edition.  We made it onto the front page, no less, and the full article is here - Won't take bed battle lying down.

We'd like to thank both Rebecca Wilkinson and Philippa Molloy for speaking out so clearly about what this campaign means to us and why we are fighting on. 

A lot of the article focuses on how we believe that the Trust did not adhere to the Equality Act when making the decision.  This is something that our MP David Morris is taking up for us.  The Trust believe they have adhered to the act, but the truth will be in the detail.

While you don't need to do a full Equality Impact Assessment or consultation for a temporary decision, we have been advised that you do still need to pay due regard to the Act and be able to provide the documentation showing how such due regard was taken.  Without such documentation indirect discrimination will have occurred.

As the Trust have been unable to show that such due regard has taken place, or provide the details of why they believe such due regard did not have to take place, our position remains the same.  Hopefully this is something that will be clarified one way or another through our MP.

Our spokesperson is still working with the Trust and has been in contact with them this week, although the feedback from her is that its "in progress" we expect that there will be further updates as time goes on.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Judicial Review - you win some, you lose some.

Today we had some bad news regarding our taking the Trust to court for Judicial Review.

The rules for Judicial Review state that the claim has to be brought within 3 months of the decision being made.

Recent information provided to us states that the decision was made in August and unfortunately that means we have missed the window of opportunity by a few weeks.

While we're obviously disappointed by this, we still send our thanks to Irwin Mitchell and Partners in Manchester who spoke to us about the case and gave us a lot of advice for free.

While it is incredibly frustrating that we can't take the more formal channel of action on this occasion, we are not wholly disappointed.  We still showed that the Trust was unable to supply any documentation about due regard to the Equality Act 2010 when asked.

You win some, you lose some, but we shall carry on.

Is a Victory Without Beds Possible?

It's clear to our campaign that we may not get the beds back any time soon.  They just don't have enough beds after they closed 22 male beds knowing they needed them.  They knew they couldn't manage and they'd have to close The Orchard to women to do it.

They also closed the beds at the start of autumn when they knew there was a seasonal demand for male beds.  Closing beds knowing they were needed.  Stupid thing to do.

Our spokesperson is working with their spokesperson to see what is going to happen next as well as keeping an eye on everything we're doing too.

The rest of the campaign team had a meeting this morning to talk about the situation.  The big topic for our meeting today was...

If we can't get the beds has all of this work been worth it?  
Have we had any kind of victory without getting them back when that was our aim?

We think we can claim some victories along the way.

We've publicly called the Trust to account for their actions.
That's a victory.

We publicly showed through FOI that the Trust was not giving the full story and people know it.
That's a victory.

We've managed to tell our story in local and national press and on local radio.
That's a victory.

We've made the Trust take a group of service users and what they are doing very seriously.
That's a victory.

We have gained the backing of our MP who has been on the radio to support us.
That's a victory.

We publicised the campaign across the UK and lots of people now know what the Trust did.
That's a victory.

We made Mumsnet Blog of the day so a thousand people learned about the Trust's actions.
That's a victory.

We've made people care about us and have had nearly 600 signatures on our petition.
That's a victory.

If you search for the Trust and The Orchard, our publicity there for everyone to see.
That's a victory.

We've helped other service users find their voice and challenge the Trust themselves.
That's a victory.

Most of all, we doubt that the LCFT will pull a stunt like this without expecting a huge reaction as we're organised, we're working together and we'll be on it with all of the force we have.

And that, my friends is a VICTORY!

We still want the bloody beds back though.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Small Victories

This whole campaign has been a series of small victories.  While we're waiting for the report from the Trust that we expect to get today, we're sharing two.

We've put these on twitter as well, but for those of you who don't follow @OrchardBeds, here we go.

The blog tells us what search terms have been used to find us.  A few people have searched for Orchard Hospital Lancaster. We wondered what turned up when you did.

All of our publicity in the press.  Cool!

We flicked onto images and while most of the, are building shots, we found that our logo comes before the chief exec.  

As we said. Small victories!

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Communications with the Trust Part 3 or 4, we've lost count.

The Beds in the Orchard team has been having a well deserved weekend off the campaign to regroup, drink mulled wine and do a bit of Christmas shopping. We can confirm that Christmas shopping is way more tiring and stressful than campaigning for women.  However, since mulled wine has been involved, its not all bad.

So on to next week...

Our spokesperson has heard back from the Trust and we are expecting to receive a report from them tomorrow along with the notes from our meeting last Monday.

Last Thursday, Keith Dibble held a meeting of managerial and clinical staff to discuss everything that has happened so far and their report will cover their position about the closure and actions since.

So we're a bit "wait and see" now.  We'll let you know what happens tomorrow.

Friday, 5 December 2014

Our Campaign, our MP and the LCFT on the BBC Radio Lancashire

If you don't live in Lancashire or if you haven't been listening to BBC Radio Lancashire, you can hear our campaign, the response from the Trust and our MP via their listen again Service.

You can hear us in the morning on the Graham Liver breakfast show.
We are on at 1:09:15 and the Trust are on an hour later.

You can hear about us again and the support from our MP, David Morris on the Gary Hickson program from this evening.
We are on at 01:10:00 or thereabouts.

See what you think.

Remember, when the MP mentions the Scarisbrick Unit in Ormskirk, this gem from our FOI requests.

TH suggested using The Orchard as a flexible ward if the network is under pressure for male or female beds for a period of time. The current female patients could be moved to Scarisbrick Unit. AW stated that as the Orchard is a standalone unit it would have to be clear which patients could be admitted as there is only 1 seclusion room. The ward would be flexible until the opening of the Harbour.

Yes, they planned to move the female patients that were at The Orchard in Lancaster to the Scarisbrick Unit in Ormskirk, the unit furthest away from home. 

So what did we learn on the radio today?

This morning Beds in the Orchard was back on BBC Radio Lancashire.  The Trust is vulnerable to Judicial Review after failing to pay due regard when closing The Orchard to women.

We sent our spokesperson.  They sent a spokesperson.  What did we learn?

1. That they are still using the "clinical need" line when we know that this is nothing to do with women who may need PICU care.

2. That they are still saying it's not for financial reasons despite knowing that they had to close a ward in this financial year and the Lancashire Telegraph had already reported that it was to save £720,000.

3. That they are still saying that it had nothing to do with closing the ward in Burnley, despite FOI information showing that they themselves said that the loss of 22 male beds was "unmanageable" before they closed it.  The FOI further showed how they had to close female beds elsewhere to make up the shortfall.

4. That they are still talking about more community care when our FOI request showed there had been no increase in staff in North Lancs or Burnley.

5. That it's preferable to deny ALL women from North Lancashire local care then send any men out of area.

6. That they weren't willing to address the issue of the Equality Act when challenged.

And last of all, they would rather have the terrible publicity of making a group of women with mental health issues take them to court rather than sort it out.

Well done Lancashire Care NHS Trust.  Well done.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Facilities for the Disabled. Is it really that hard?

This was left as a comment by Chris Balchin, but we have decided to make it a full post again.

May I just take this opportunity to say the following:

I would just like to say that I've long been aware of the phrase

'It's the Squeaky door that gets the oil'.

For those of you who have had to endure the lack of adequate facilities in The Lancaster Unit, The Orchard and the appalling disregard to your needs Trust wide, [the same experiences and worse that I too have experienced] I offer my apologies for squeaking too quietly, and possibly too timidly for too long.

I let you down.

But I care about you. I respect you, your dignity and relative independence.
However, I promise you and all future users of The Orchard and wider Trust that as long as I am able, I will not let go until you have facilities that at least match those of the new build, The Harbour, and see to it that attitudes are changed towards your needs and disadvantages. The Trust owes you that.
You are no less important in Burnley, Ormskirk, Lancaster or any part of Lancashire, than any patient being sent to the modern facility in Blackpool; when it opens of course.
This blog is a literal God send, facilitating serious amplification to my squeak and for that and their indefatigable determination to roar for those who can't or feel unable to even squeak for themselves, I give my heart felt thanks to the team.

Seriously -

Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU

To Ms Tierney Moore, Chief Executive of Lancashire Care I would ask this,

Why are individual voices ignored, regardless of the gravity of the message?
My message has been voiced since my time as an inpatient at the worst period of my mental ill health, but I was made to feel from the outset like a complete nuisance and an irritation.
And how can it be that the most senior member of the build project team for the £100,000 plus refurbished Lancaster Unit say he was "unaware" of the absence of any facilities for disabled people, and that " must have been an oversight".
Only to follow that up with an identical situation at the £1.2 million refurbished Orchard, even though I attended the Open Information Day prior to work on the Orchard refurbishment, specifically to advise of the situation in order to "...prevent the same issue reoccurring at The Orchard".

I deserve a transparent and honest answer to these points, as do the other service users and the financiers.


Wednesday, 3 December 2014

We're fighting for the Women but what about Disability?

This post was left as a comment on our Blog, but I am moving and making it a full post as it's important.  I would like to thank Chris Balchin for adding this and also for being strong enough to use their own name, something that not many can or will do.

From the outset I can openly state my name.  I am Chris (Christopher) Balchin. My LCFT credentials you will find in my comment earlier in this blog.

I am so grateful for this latest posting!

It is of great benefit to me personally in my one man campaign for Justice for disabled people in The former Lancaster Unit, at its replacement The Orchard, and around attitudes to disabled people's experience within the Trust generally.  My campaign has received warm words but little success since 2010 when I was an inpatient suffering the effects of a serious breakdown.

I today met with genuinely concerned senior managers in the Trust. These managers were made aware of my concerns for the first time today and were genuinely shocked at my stories. I believe they are taking this and other issues very seriously indeed.

It had not occurred to me that the Trust needed to take Due Regard for Disability when earlier mentioned, but your wording opened my eyes to the obvious. 

All I've heard from project managers and the Architect was that Regulations are different for a refurbishment to that of a new build.  Other management just referred to cost implications.  I continually questioned the legitimacy of those comments where no facilities are provided at all, or where facilities are so lacking that there might as well be none.

The room lauded to me as 'The Disabled Room' is named such for one reason and one reason only - it has a larger floor area. Further, this Disabled Room is on the Men's Wing.  I received no reply when I asked where the Women's Disabled Room was.

If those people that I have previously spoken to thought I would go away, be assured I never would, but the stress of their inaction and dismissive behaviour might have caused a relapse in my health forcing me back to the inadequate conditions of the Orchard. I would not have coped with that though so would not have likely survived.

However, though my only technology is a phone, I see it can be so beneficial in bringing justice to the oppressed.  It is amazing what Public Knowledge of a situation can do.

Well Chris, we do hope that the Trust staff who we know are reading our blog, look into your concerns properly and start taking issues of potential discrimination seriously.

Judicial Review - Letter Before Claim to be sent to the LCFT

After taking advice yesterday, Beds in the Orchard contacted their solicitor and asked for a Letter Before Claim to be sent to the Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust with regards to taking them to court for a Judicial Review into their action of closing The Orchard to women.

When taking action, even temporary, that has a direct affect on a Protected Characteristic as outlined in the Equality Act of 2010, in this case a person's sex, a public body must pay due regard to the act and must publish documentation about how due regard was given when asked. The Trust as unable to provide such information and are therefore liable to Judicial Review.

Below are some of the questions that have been asked amongst campaigners and our responses.

What does this mean?
The Letter Before Claim will lay out the case for how the Trust has made a decision in a way that contravenes the Equality Act.  It will give them the opportunity to negotiate a resolution with our campaign before it goes to court.

Sounds expensive.
Judicial Review claims are eligible for Legal Aid.  For someone to be eligible for Legal Aid they need to be in receipt of certain benefits - in our case ESA, have savings of less than 8K and less than 100k of equity in any property they own.  Because of the nature of the people we are supporting, there are a number of our group who qualify for Legal Aid.

Do you really want to go to court?
This campaign has always been about returning inpatient care to the women of North Lancashire and that is all we want.  We would naturally prefer to do this out of court so that the public money that funds the NHS was spent on patient care rather than court cases.  

What next?
We would appeal to the LCFT to find a way to return The Orchard to a mixed sex facility as soon as possible and to not close the facility to women again.  We are still at a stage where we can resolve this together and as our case is quite clear cut it would benefit no one for this to be taken fully down the legal route.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

So, will we get the beds back?

The question we've been asked the most is "are we getting the beds back?"

The answer to this is "yes, at some point, but it may not be until The Harbour opens."

This is obviously very disappointing to us all.  This will mean that The Orchard will have been closed to women for at least 6 months.  Half a year is not a short term temporary closure, it is a long period of time for women to be denied local care and experience all of the negative effects.

The Trust were unable to offer any guarantees about when the ward will be reopened to women, although they assured us that they are reviewing this regularly.

The problem is that they're unable to cope with the demand for male beds, so have no choice to keep the ward male only.  Attempts to move some beds back have not worked.  This is due to the lack of capacity caused by closing the 22 male beds.

Is it just the women in North Lancashire who have lost out?

Yes. Although there have been small losses elsewhere, the impact has focussed on North Lancashire. 

The first contingency plans were to close 5 female beds and change those to male.  Two of these were the swing beds at The Orchard. The closure of the whole ward means that the loss of 22 male beds has resulted in a total loss of 11 female beds, 8 of which are in Lancaster.

Is there ANY good news?

Yes and no...
We've been assured that The Orchard will return to mixed use as soon as it's feasible, though with the usual caveat that it could run to when The Harbour opens.  It's difficult for us to see this as good news when we already had that information.

More positively, it was made clear that the intention is to absolutely return the ward to mixed sex and that there are further plans for investment, such as the appointment of an additional Pdoc.

The Consultant Psychiatrist who attended the meeting to give clinical input was keen to point out that they wanted the ward to return to mixed sex as it was a more therapeutic environment when the ward is mixed.  He also showed genuine concern about the in the impact of the closure.

The Trust are keen to keep dialogue open between themselves and the Campaign and our spokesperson will keep this dialogue going.  The Trust have assured us that the use of the beds is under constant review and that they are accountable to the CCGs that it is only temporary.  By having direct communication we can keep up to date with what is happening.

Anything else?
We suggested an interim measure to help the women and their families and this is going to be discussed by the Trust, though they felt it may not be feasible.  We have actioned them to look into other ways that they could help.

We also raised some feedback as to how the trust could look at how it deals with complaints.  They have taken this on-board.

Strategy is no Excuse for In-Year Budget Cuts

Much has been made about the Strategy of the LCFT to reduce the number of inpatient beds while increasing the input from the community teams.

In our meeting yesterday, we strongly challenged the closure of the 22 beds in Burnley as it was clear that decision had gone ahead with full acknowledgement that the loss of those beds was unmanageable, thus resulting in The Orchard being closed to women.

Mr. Dibble referred back to their strategy to reduce the number of inpatient beds and their major planning process of 2006 that had involved wide consultation and full due process.  This was quoted that as a reason behind the closure of Ward 18 as it was part of the strategic plan.

We disagreed that you could refer back to an 8 year old plan to explain the closure of a ward to women in 2014.  Mr. Dibble disagreed with us, as in his experience plans involving PFI, for example can take many years. 

Our issue with this is that Strategy lays out the long term goals of an organisation, however, Strategy should not result in a failure to deliver required services. 

We are not talking about the long term strategic plan, we are talking about a short term measure to deliver savings to the in-year budget knowing that it was not sustainable operationally and therefore resulted in the Trust being unable to deliver its services as required.

Blaming strategic plans for operational failures does not make business sense.

To summarise:-

  • The Trust will have had to make cost savings within year.  This is part of the yearly budget plan, not the Strategic Capital Investment plan.
  • The 22 beds were closed as part of the yearly budget plan, not the Strategic Capital Investment plan.
  • It is not the overall LCFT patient care strategy that caused the closure of The Orchard to women, it was the financial pressures and required budget savings within this financial year
  • A decision was made to reduce services knowing there wasn't capacity to manage that change.  This is not a strategic issue.  That is financial and operational. 
It is still clear that the women of North Lancashire are paying the price for the decision to reduce bed capacity to deliver short-term savings knowing that it was not manageable.

This is not acceptable.

Business Planning 101 - Know your Strategy

Our representatives spent last night writing a number of updates for our blog today about what happened at their meeting with the Trust.  After reading through some of them we’ve asked for some translation about what was said.  So for those of you who like us have no idea what the difference is between Strategic, Operational and Financial Planning, we’re going to start off with an overview, so our first update makes sense.  For those of you, who know all this already; do skip this “KISS” overview.

I’ve been asked to write about business planning in layman’s terms.  I’m not sure I can so apologies in advance.

Business Planning
All businesses and organisations need a strategic plan to be able to grow and transform. 
  • Strategic plans are usually long term. E.g 5 years.  They state what the overall goal of the organisation is, what they want to achieve and predict where the business will go.  Strategic plans should be reviewed on a yearly basis to ensure they are still relevant.
  • Operational plans set out how they will achieve the strategic goals and run the business while working towards the goals.  Operational Plans should be created yearly and aligned to the Strategic plan.
  • Investment plans set out how much money is needed to deliver the strategic plan and the operational plans.  These are usually 3 year plans, but should be reviewed regularly.
  • Yearly budget plans set and manage the budget within year and should be reviewed on a monthly basis.

Capital Business Planning
Capital Business Planning is about investment in the business.  Large projects are funded from capital should deliver a clear goal.  Large investment in equipment is also capitalised.

Yearly budget Planning
There are three budgets; Payroll, Income and Expenditure (I&E) and Capital.  Payroll is a type of I&E and is generally the largest yearly spend in an organisation.  I&E is what you need to run the Business and Capital is used for large expenditure.  A basic example of this would be that Nurses are funded from Payroll, Bandages are funded from I&E and a new MRI scanner would use Capital.
All three budgets can fluctuate depending on yearly pressures.

Have you got all that? We think we almost have.  There is a reason for explaining this – more to follow in our next blog post.

Monday, 1 December 2014

With all due regards.

Today I met with representatives from the Trust, including Keith Dibble, Deputy Network Director.  This is a brief overview.

We focused mainly on the legality of the closure and how the closure of male beds for financial reasons had caused an unmanageable demand that resulted in the loss of 11 female beds across the county, 8 of which were at The Orchard in Lancaster.

We believe that the women of North Lancashire are the victims of cost cutting measures that artificially caused a shortage of male inpatient beds and we will not be moved from that position.

Both sides have taken legal advice.  The Trust has been advised that it has acted legally.  The campaign has been advised that this is indirect sexual discrimination and is unlawful under the Equality Act 2010.

We have not seen any documentation regarding the due regard to the Equality Act that the Trust should have undertaken with regards to the closure.  We asked that it be supplied to us by the end of today as if it exists, it should be readily available.

We have not received any such documentation.

We have advised that the campaign will continue.  A full report of the meeting will be posted to the blog tomorrow.

Meeting with the Trust

Our campaign representatives will be meeting with the Trust this afternoon to discuss the closure of the beds to women.

We are sending two representatives.  They are good people who have given the campaign a lot of help and support over the past weeks and are giving up their own time and using their annual leave to meet with the Trust on our behalf this afternoon.

We wanted to pop something onto the Blog to let them know we think they're just marvellous!

Check back later for details of how it went.

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Meeting Preparation - Minimal Biscuits

The Beds in the Orchard team got together this morning to discuss our meeting with the Trust on Monday. It was a good meeting and we think the people who are going will do us proud.

They're looking forward to it.  There's no understanding some people as it strikes the fear into most of us.  Most of us are too worried to even use our own names, so we are grateful that they will.

We had Panettone. Not biscuits.  For those following @orchardbeds on twitter will know there's a slight obsession with biscuits.

We are pleased with what we've done so far, but its not over yet.  We're a determined bunch and have some great people behind us and some great ideas for what to do next.

To the people from the Trust who are reading our blog and tweets.  We hope you get some of that all important insight into how the things you decide on in meetings affect the people you are supposed to care for.  We hope you start listening properly to your service users because we're finding our voice.

Cheers from everyone at the Beds in the Orchard campaign.  We'll be back on Monday to tell you all how it went!

Friday, 28 November 2014

FOI Part 2 - clinically appropriate for whom?

When the issue of removing beds for women was raised by the campaign via twitter and BBC Radio Lancashire, on both occasions the response came back that it was "clinically appropriate".

The term "clinically appropriate" would suggest that the closure of The Orchard to women would have clinical benefits somewhere, but for whom?

As the spokesperson for the campaign, I posed this question to the Trust in an FOI request.  Below are the questions and the response.

1.Details or documentation outlining the assessment of the clinical benefit to women from the closure of female inpatient services at The Orchard in Lancaster. 

There is no documentation of the nature requested as clearly the preference is to treat all patients as near to home as possible provided that the locally available bed is clinically appropriate. However this objective has to be balanced against the broader requirement to meet the needs of Lancaster residents across the country within the bed resources available.

2. Details or documentation outlining the assessment of the negative consequences of closing female inpatient services at The Orchard in Lancaster and the plan put in place by the trust to minimise any such consequences. –

Please see question 1.

I have three concerns with the response.  

Firstly; if the preference is to treat Service Users locally, then the Trust has willingly and knowingly denied female service users the preferred location for treatment.

Secondly; A preferred location for treatment, suggests that there are clinical benefits from being treated locally.  Knowing this to be the case, the Trust had made no mitigations whatsoever to minimise the negative consequences of being treated away from home that the women will experience.

Lastly; In response to the following point :- this objective has to be balanced against the broader requirement to meet the needs of Lancaster residents across the country within the bed resources available.

As the closure does not benefit the needs of female service users in North Lancashire, it would appear that there has been a conscious decision to place the needs of male service users above those of female service users.

These are all issues that have been raised by the contributors to this blog.  A decision has been made that directly affects the women of North Lancashire with no consideration to the negative effects and no actions taken to mitigate such effects.  

We do not believe this to be acceptable.

Communication with the Trust

A week after we launched this campaign, we were invited by the Trust to meet with them in person to discuss the closure.  We advised that we would meet once we had the responses from our Freedom of Information Act requests.

The Trust have kindly pushed through the responses to those requests, which would normally take up to 20 days.  We appreciate their swift response.

Now we have that information, we have contacted the Trust to arrange that meeting as below:

Dear Communications Team,

Now that we have the responses to our Freedom of Information requests, we would like to meet with you on behalf of the campaign to discuss the closure of The Orchard to women in more detail.
We are able to meet with you on Monday afternoon.  The earliest we could attend would be 1:30pm.
I will be attending along with ****.  I may also still bring my assistant to take notes on my behalf, but I can't confirm this as yet as she may be required to minute another meeting at work.
Please can you advise whether Monday afternoon would also be convenient for you and who will be attending the meeting on your behalf.
I look forward to hearing from you.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Orchard Beds Vindicated by The Freedom of Information Requests

Today Beds in the Orchard received the responses to the FOI requests.

All along, we have said that the closure of the ward was for financial reasons, that it was due to impact of closing the 22 male beds in Burnley and that it was until The Harbour opened.  The Trust have denied this.

They have denied this on BBC Radio, in the Lancaster Guardian, to our service users in response to our letter of complaint and in the letters to the MPs.  Below are some of the things that have been said.

  • "The intention isn't for this to run for weeks and weeks".
  • "I would like to reassure you that the use of The Orchard as an all-male facility is very much a temporary measure."
  • "This isn't for financial reasons."
  • "This has nothing to do with the closure of the ward in Burnley."

To reiterate:-

This was a short term, temporary measure that wasn't for financial reasons and had nothing to do with the closure of 22 beds in Burnley.

The FOI information should have backed this up.  The Trust have been consistent in their reply and surely they would not give misleading information to the media, their service users or the MPs would they?

Perhaps we're misunderstanding what we've been sent, but here is some of the information provided to us from our FOI requests.

From 9/9/14 Sustainability Minutes - Suggestion made to open male ward on Darwen as no extra staff will be required. Discussed use of the Orchard as a ‘flexible friend’ to support longer term pressures of gender demand and we could scale down females to make all male to support this transition.

Longer term pressures of gender demand.  Please note: Longer term pressures.  Not short term pressures. Making the ward all male for longer term pressures.

Many thanks for your input and pragmatism yesterday in the meeting around managing the correct number of male vs female bed reductions, in line with our need to close a ward in total this financial year.

Our need to close a ward in this financial year.  Please note: Close in financial year, for financial reasons.

We all agreed we couldn’t manage with the loss of 22 male beds though so we agreed mitigation plans (some dates for the mitigation actions below TBC):

We couldn't manage with the loss of 22 male beds.  Please note: The closure of the 22 male beds in Burnley was acknowledged as unmanageable and therefore would have a known impact on the rest of the inpatient provision provided by the Trust.

TH suggested using The Orchard as a flexible ward if the network is under pressure for male or female beds for a period of time. The current female patients could be moved to Scarisbrick Unit. AW stated that as the Orchard is a standalone unit it would have to be clear which patients could be admitted as there is only 1 seclusion room. The ward would be flexible until the opening of the Harbour.

Flexible until the opening of the Harbour.  Please note: Until the opening of The Harbour.  The hospital due to open in March 15 if it runs to time. 

There are other details in the FOI information, mainly talking about where they were going to make up the shortfall of beds, and talk of the transitional period - which we believe to be the period before the beds being closed and The Harbour opening.

What is clear is that what we said all along was true.  That the women of North Lancashire were the victims of cost cutting measures and the closure of the Male ward in Burnley and that the Closure of the ward was until The Harbour opened.

Shame on you Lancashire Care NHS Trust.  Shame on you for treating your female service users like this.

Full response publicly available here.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

How many more women will be hurt before this changes?

One of our campaigners has some important questions.

How many more women will be hurt before this changes?  I'm crying out to you here.

I'm seeing my friends sent away.  Hearing the hurt in their voices.  They echo in my head at night.

Why are you doing this to us? You make these changes and don't think it through. You are meant to care for us, but you see pound signs not people.

What will it take for it to change?  A death? Will that be the moment it changes, when you can't ignore it any more. 

When someone says that everything is so shit and there's no one who knows them near by to help, so they call it a day.

I don't think that would do it. You'd find a way to say you weren't involved, that it would have happened anyway.  We'll know better.  We all will.

Enough now.  Enough. Mums away from their kids at Christmas is next on the list.  Daughters and sisters, friends and family ill and alone.

You're heartless in your offices.  Do something.  I'm crying out to you here.

Ways to dismiss a Service User's complaints.

The majority of people involved with Beds in the Orchard have been treated in the community, and most have been treated as an inpatient as well.  Many of the other people involved have first hand experience of their friend or relative being treated.

Some of us have made complaints before to the people we have contact with.  These are some of the responses that we've had.

They're ill and don't know what they're saying. (When a family member passed on a complaint).

Here's a form to fill in.

I've heard about your problem, but I'm unable to deal with it right now.

That didn't happen.

You're remembering that wrong.

You're being manipulative.

You're too reliant on services.

What do you want us to do at this time?

You're upset at the moment, why not take a nice bath to relax?

Have you spoken to your care coordinator?

You must have misunderstood.

I'm sorry you feel upset. 

I'm sure that's not how it was intended.

We're very busy you know.

You're not the only patient.

Sorry to hear about that.

We've not had that complaint before. 

Why not complain properly when you're feeling stronger.

But he wasn't behaving as he should have done! (When a complaint was made on behalf of a service user).

Staff can be rude because they're busy.

That's a bit melodramatic.

All we can do is tell staff.

All of these responses sought to minimise or dismiss what was being said.  Nothing happened afterwards and all felt like there was no point in talking further.  The volunteers try to represent service user complaints, but get varying results and it feels like more empty words sometimes.

What about now?  Will we be listened to now?

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Today we are Angry

Today we are angry.

We are angry because there is a woman from our area experiencing all of the problems we have been talking about.

We are angry that she is miles away from her home.

We are angry that she is miles away from her family.

We are angry because she's separated from her children.

We are angry that she doesn't have any visitors as its too far to travel.

We are angry that she's being treated by people who don't know her or her history.

We are angry that she was treated in a dismissive and disrespectful way.

We are angry that she couldn't leave easily as she is ill, alone and miles from home.

We are angry that this will continue as there's no chance of her being moved closer to home.

We are angry that it took intervention from people on twitter for anything to change.

We are angry that this has even happened.

There are a number of us who have found what happened today with the women being treated in Burnley very triggering as it reminded us of the experiences we have faced ourselves when being treated away from home.

There was a time when this would have upset us and maybe we would have withdrawn into ourselves and let it churn and churn into introspective negativity.

But no.  While we are deeply, deeply concerned that there is someone out there who is struggling with the situation she finds herself in, through no fault of her own, we are not running away.

We are angry.  Very angry.  And that anger is galvanising us to make sure that we keep on going and we keep on fighting this until we have the female beds back at The Orchard.

If you share our sense of anger and injustice at this, see the pinned post on our blog about how you can help.  Sign our petition.  Get angry and speak out as well.  Every voice helps.

Monday, 24 November 2014

Is Everything in Crisis?

Twitter has been full of tweets under #crisisteamfail.  Turns out that the hashtag was started by someone under the care of Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust.

Someone, it turns out, who has children who is being treated 90 mins from her home as there's no beds in The Orchard for women.  Someone who is experiencing first hand the problems with being so far away from home.  Little contact with their family, no one to come and visit and all the rest.  All of the things that the Trust deny are a problem.

Someone who started #crisisteamfail because of her experiences of Home Treatment at the hands of the LCFT, the care, that we're told by the Trust is so much better for us women.  As @orchardbeds chatted with this woman another tweep joined in and low and behold, turns out it's the same Crisis team as the other two.

There's no saying that the whole of the Crisis team in North Lancashire isn't up to par and some names have come out as providing really good care, but there's certainly enough examples of problems to make us sit up and take notice.

They all had experience of poor treatment at the hands of the teams that's meant to care for you when you're at your worst.  And that's what the women of North Lancashire are left with.

Miles away from home if you need inpatient care and a crisis team that spawned a #crisisteamfail hashtag.

Fingers crossed you don't get ill ladies!

Sunday, 23 November 2014

If it was a general ward no one would suggest closing it.

A response to their letter from the Trust from another one of our campaigners.

I've head back from my letter.  They're still talking about home treatment being better.  I still say that if this was a general ward, no-one would suggest closing it because more men needed treatment.

Its gone beyond their "Lancashire wide provision" which they are saying in all letters.  They have to rethink their whole strategy of provision of care in Lancashire.  As I said before, 6 women have been sent elsewhere already and its probably more by now.  Do you know if the men's beds have been full up since they did this?  I was in hospital in winter, and the female beds were so full, when I went home on a trial, the bed was swiped!

I was at a Green Party Fayre today, and put it across to a man and put a quick note for their next meeting.  He said he will look into it.  I think he was earnest.

I sent my story with my letters, and they said that they would make exceptional provision if there was a serious family problem that meant local care was needed.  But I fail to see how they can if there is only one woman on the unit.  It also shows that they aren't telling the whole truth.  They also told me that the provision in the community is being made better  - I really think that is a crock of shit!  I'm being treated in the community and all we do is fill in endless forms, which mean nothing to me! 

I'm trying to get support on a mental health forum but only a few are willing to sign a petition as they are mostly very ill people, so not able to help in this.  Its an indictment of the care that they need a good forum to support them - there is so little good care in the NHS.

Dancing with Aunt Sally and the Strawman at Beds in the Orchard.

At Beds in the Orchard it feels like we've been doing a dance with Aunt Sally and the Straw Man when it comes to our complaints.

For anyone who doesn't know what a Straw Man or Aunt Sally argument is, it's explained on Wikipedia but the basic idea is that a debate or argument is knowingly and deliberately skewed to lead the debate or argument in a different direction.

So how are we in an Aunty Sally situation here?

Closing a unit only to women and sending them away for inpatient care is discriminatory.

Some women are better treated at home.

We don't deny that, but closing a unit only to women and sending them away for inpatient care is discriminatory.

Not every clinical presentation is suitable for treatment at the Orchard.

We don't deny that, but closing a unit only to women and sending them away for inpatient care is discriminatory.

We provide beds on a pan-Lancashire basis.

We don't deny that, but closing a unit to ALL women in ONE locality so ALL women are treated away from home is discriminatory.

The Trust's inpatient facilities are able to flex with demand.

We don't deny that, but the Trust has NEVER closed a whole unit to just one sex before and closing a unit only to women and sending them away for inpatient care is discriminatory.

The thing is; if this wasn't at all discriminatory, we'd have had a response outlining how that was the case, rather than these Aunty Sally arguments about clinical presentation, home treatment and flexing.

And yet the dance with the straw man continues... 

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Communications with Lancashire Care Trust,

My name is Philippa and I'm the spokesperson for the Beds in the Orchard campaign.  I believe I'm referred to by some of our other campaigners as one of the "Suited and Booted".  My role has been to liaise with the Trust, the press and other groups interested in supporting us.

This week I've had two communications from the Trust.

Firstly, I have had confirmation that our FOI requests are being collated and should be with us at the start of next week.  The plan is that I will then meet with the trust along with two other campaigners.  I will publish the details when I have them.

The second communication is one from Keith Dibble, the Interim Deputy Network Director for Inpatient CBU in response to a letter of complaint.

The contents of that letter are broadly along the same lines as their communications with our MPs and in his radio interview at the start of November where the specific issues are not addressed, however this is to be expected.  I will not be transcribing the letter onto the blog as it does not contain any new information and we have already made our position clear in previous posts as to why we are unsatisfied with the response so far.

I am more than happy to provide a scanned electronic copy of the letter to anyone who wishes to see it in full.

In the interim period between my original email to the Trust, my colleague and I have been taking advice in a number of areas with regards to this change and how it was made, however we have decided to suspend taking forward these more formal routes of action until after the meeting with the Trust has taken place.

After discussion with campaigners, however, we will be pressing ahead with organising direct action, and promoting the petition, particularly now that we have the backing of LUSU.

The information the campaign was given in regards to the original intentions of the Trust came from their management level.  I remain inclined to believe the words of those who have much to loose and little to gain from sharing that information, rather than generalised statements from an organisation that is unwilling to address specific issues.

I will report back via the blog after our meeting has taken place.


Friday, 21 November 2014

It's not all doom and gloom for our campaginers

It is easy, running a campaign like this, to get tied down by looking at the negative aspects of what is going on.  It's not hard as there are so many to choose from.  The impact on us, the impact on our families, the impact on our finances.  All of these are important and all of these worry us considerably.

Then there's the other issues surrounding the campaign like equality and discrimination and the underfunding of Mental Health.  There's the fear of stigma or recriminations for speaking out in our own names.  In a community where anxiety and paranoia is tied in to the lives of many of us, this is a real concern to many, though we're fortunate to have people who will represent us both publicly and to the Trust itself.

However it's not all doom and gloom.

We have discovered that there ARE people our there who will support us.  We are considered by some to be a small local issues, but not everyone sees it that way. To all of you we send our grateful thanks!
  • Glosswitch at the New Statesman and Louise Pennington at The Huffington Post who shared our story on a national forum.  The other national publication interested and investigating the Trust.
  • The women at Everyday Victim Blaming who shared our story and gave our campaign the first boost it needed.
  • Mumsnet, arguably the largest parenting website in the UK who when they made us Blog of the Day saw many people contacting us with their support.
  • Our 142 followers on Twitter who have given us a reach of over 10,000 people every week since we've run.
  • The students of Lancaster University who have passed a motion to support our campaign and are eager to help us in any way that they can.
  • Radio Lancashire and the Lancaster Guardian who made us lead stories in the local area.
  • The 255 people who are following us on Facebook who are giving us a post reach of 1000's
  • All of the people who have read this blog, generating more than 6000 page views in 3 weeks

We came into this campaign feeling small and weak and wondering what on earth we could do to make a change.  The response to our campaign has given many of us a sense of self belief that we didn't have before. It has shown us what we are capable of.

Its not all doom and gloom and it is not over yet.  We will keep on until we succeed.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

How culture shapes the actions of an organisation.

Guest Post
Sat in my living room last week I found myself watching "It was Acceptable in the 70s", a Channel 4 program that reviewed TV shown in the 1970s through the eyes of a modern day audience. There was one scene from The Professionals where a screaming woman was slapped, her shirt torn open and then refastened by the suave detective, along with a 'saucy' comment from his colleague.

Looking back now, the whole scene is blatantly sexist, but in the 1970s the culture of the UK was still getting its head around equal rights for women and violence and sexual abuse towards women was so unremarkable that it could be included in prime time television, without so much of an eyebrow being raised. 

All of the programs shown demonstrated how sexism, was so ingrained into the culture at that point in time that it could be blatant - rather than today where it sneaks in subversively, but not without comment.

When something is endemic in a culture, it will go unnoticed as it is unremarkable. 

It's not only society that has a culture and an ethos.  Companies and organisations have them too.  The culture of an organisation shapes its behaviour and the attitudes of the people in it.  It enables certain types of behaviour and discourages others.

To understand the culture of an organisation, do not look at the words it uses, but to their actions and outcomes.  For example, the company that states it invests in its workforce, but doesn't notice workplace bullying and has a high staff turnover.  The organisation that says it prides itself on customer service, but has little repeat business and a large number of customer complaints.

In the same way, if an organisation talks of equality, but behaves in a discriminatory way,  it suggests that those attitudes are embedded into the culture of that organisation, making it unremarkable, so it passes without notice.

Is this what has happened here?  Is discriminating against women so unremarkable that it can pass without comment?

This is the question I have asked myself since reading about the Beds in the Orchard campaign.  How discriminating against one group of people in an area, solely on their sex could pass unnoticed and without comment. Perhaps I'd have been less shocked if it was in the private sector where inequality sometimes slips under the radar, but for a public sector organisation like the NHS it is remarkable that it happened at all.

The statements made by the Trust about this closure are even more surprising with no acknowledgement whatsoever that their actions could be seen as anything other than reasonable.

That is why I ask.  What is the culture of the Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust?  I'm looking beyond their words in the on-line Annual Reviews and Equality Impact Assessments and straight at their actions. When I do, I am concerned about what I see.

Kath B

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Blog of the day on Mumsnet!

Something that has got us all smiling today is Mumsnet making this Blog their "blog of the day".

Since we launched on 31st October, we've had over 5000 hits and we know people are taking an interest in what we have to say.  Everything helps when you're standing up for people who maybe can't stand up for themselves.

See the full post here -

A big "Thanks" to Eric Ollerenshaw and a "Thanks for Nothing to the Trust"

Our other lovely MP Eric Ollerenshaw has got back to us as well as David Morris MP.

Both of them have had the same utterly disingenuous statement from from the LCFT.

This is the statement that:-

Doesn't mention that they've never removed inpatient care for women in this area before.

Doesn't mention the closure of male beds elsewhere in the county before  they closed The Orchard to women.

Talks about seasonal fluctuations, with the insinuation that closing a whole ward to one sex is a common event, or that they would do the same to men in spring - which they have never done before either.

This casual sexism, misleading by omission and dismissal of concerns raised by the Service Users they are meant to support needs to stop.

Can you prove WHY you believe not? Asks one of our supporters.

This email arrived from one of our supporters.  For context, the statement "We believe not" was given by Keith Dibble in a radio interview when asked if he believed that closing the ward to women was harmful.

Dear Beds in the Orchard.

"We believe not".  What a statement.  It is a phrase which in itself cannot be easily challenged.  How can you say to a person or a corporation "You're not being truthful when you state 'you believe not'?"  You cannot justifiably say that without evidence as you cannot get into people's minds.  Evidence of a person's thinking / belief is generally obtained by witnessing their actions.  Nevertheless, statements of belief can be used as a smokescreen and a very useful corporate conscience protection device.

The question therefore is not "Do you really believe not?" Rather the question should be, "If you believe not, then WHY do you believe not."

For belief, no evidence is necessary.  But for a health authority, evidence is essential, to confirm or reject whether or not any particular action is acceptable.

So, Beds in the Orchard, you need to obtain directly from the Trust management the answer to "Why do you believe not?"

If the corporation has a clear conscience they will answer this willingly and without delay.  They won't make you work for the answer.  After all, it seems clear from the blog that while you are all passionate about the subject matter and angry with the actions of the trust, you appear to be approaching the issue from the viewpoint of genuine concern and dismay, not just to cause trouble.

If the Trust action was based on empirical evidence then I wonder why things needed to go this far.  I also believe that offering this evidence up front would have saved so much unnecessary work and unnecessary angst on both sides of the divide.

Conversely, if it acted on the assumptions, or worse, on the belief that they may simply just get a few letters of complaint, that could be shrugged off, then shame on them.

Their shame is the unnecessary distress upon the people who use their services and their friends, families and carers.  These people are the women of Lancaster and the men of Burnley for whom a residential facility was prematurely closed down without adequate alternative provision for care being set up ahead of need and available when required.

 If the latter is correct, then one would say that both groups have been abused.

Yours sincerely.

Monday, 17 November 2014

If they dismiss our concerns, what about the others?

One of the questions that keeps coming up at the Beds in the Orchard campaign meetings is; "If they are happy to casually discriminate against women, is the Trust meeting its obligations to other groups protected by the Equality Act 2010?"

We ask ourselves how they are taking care of young people with mental health problems.  We wonder what structure they have in place to take care of their elderly service users.  We question whether they they sensitive to the LGBT community.

What about those with disabilities other than mental health issues?  Are they able to support those who are deaf or blind?  Are their facilities properly equipped and their staff sensitive to the needs of those with physical disabilities? 

We look at the response that we've had from the Trust about our issues with women being turned away from The Orchard.   The response has, in our opinion, been dismissive of our concerns.   Their replies that it's only temporary, that they don't believe its harmful, that it's 'clinically appropriate' and that they are flexing, rather than removing beds, all seek to minimise what we are telling them; that its hurting us.

The Trust have offered to meet with us and we're looking forward to doing so, but will it be more of the same face to face?  Will we hear anything new?

We wonder now if we are just scratching at the surface of how the Trust deals with the concerns of its Service Users.  Do they dismiss our complaints or bury them under empty statements while doing nothing to address them? 

All of us have had treatment in the community provided by the Trust.  Some of us have had inpatient treatment as well.  All of us have our own experiences, both positive and negative and all of us want our voices to be heard.  Let's hope they're listening.

Don’t be fooled by the “local” issue. It’s never too small to mention when families are hurt.

Your kidneys become infected and stop working properly.  Your doctor insists that you’re admitted for emergency treatment, but when you get to the hospital, you discover that because more men than women need kidney treatment right now, they have closed the renal ward to women. 

You are put into an ambulance and taken to a hospital in a town you’ve never been to before, about an hour’s drive from where you live.  When you get there, your condition is assessed and they admit you for six month’s treatment. 

You suddenly feel very scared.  You have two small children and your husband works full time.  How will they be able to come and visit you?  You realise you’re going separated from your close family for months and that your friends, family and colleagues will struggle to come and see you too.  You feel very alone and very isolated.

When you demand to be treated closer to home, you’re told no; only male patients can get treatment locally in your area, but that it is perfectly acceptable as there are beds in other hospitals, that it’s only temporary and that some women can be treated at home, so they are all right.  The managers say they don’t know when your local ward will be open again, but a member of staff accidentally lets it slip that it’s a 6 month temporary closure.  That’s the whole of your treatment.

Six months away from your home, your friends, your family, all your support networks, the places you know and like, the town you live in.  Six months with only seeing your children perhaps once or twice a week, but the visits are fraught as they are tired after the journey and there’s nothing for them to do at the hospital.  Six months without the chance to go for a coffee during the day with a friend. Six months of hearing your children cry on the phone to you at night as they don’t understand why you can’t come home.  Six months and there is NOTHING you can do about it.

This sounds ridiculous doesn’t it?   A hospital wouldn’t close its doors to all women as there were more men who needed treatment.  No one would send you away for six months of treatment with no chance of being closer to home.

But if you’re a female mental health patient in North Lancashire that is exactly what is going on and exactly what would happen to you if you needed inpatient care right now. It is what would happen to me and to my children if I got seriously ill again.

At first glance Beds in the Orchard looks like a small local issue.  After all, what concern should be 6 female inpatient beds in one small psychiatric unit in a one small city be to people elsewhere in the country?

But don’t be fooled by the small, local appearance of Beds in the Orchard.  What has happened at The Orchard it is indicative of a much wider problem across the country with the chronic underfunding of Mental Health services impacting on the health and wellbeing of thousands of people and communities.  It is indicative of the hard price being paid by women and their families nationally; as they find that their local inpatient psychiatric care has disappeared, leading to them being separated from their support at the time when they need it most.

You need to take an interest because it may be the hospital in your town that stops admitting women next.  It may be your mother, your daughter your sister, or even you who finds yourself being sent miles away for care with no chance of being treated closer to home.  It could be your friend with severe PND or Puerperal Psychosis separated from her baby or young children for months on end.  It could be you if that niggling sense of unease you have turns into a severe depression. 

As time and again, the cuts to mental health care and the loss of psychiatric beds are not seen as newsworthy, and campaigns like ours are dismissed as being “too small” or “too local” for people take an interest; the wider picture of the loss of services is consistently missed and hidden.  Hidden, of course, right up until you need the service, only to find it’s not there. 

What makes it all even more difficult to get public interest is that the women it affects most are the ones who are often too ill, or too scared or too anxious to stand up for themselves, as is made clear in the piece about our campaign in the Huffington Post.  There is only strength and interest in numbers, which is why we need people who are strong enough to stand up for those who can’t.

Mental illness can happen to anyone.  It happened to me.  It could happen to you too.  Help us stand up for the women of North Lancashire by signing our petition or by getting involved using the information on elsewhere on this blogHelp us let Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust know that this has to change,

Thank you.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

The East Anglia Outrage - When will PEOPLE start to matter again?

This morning, we're stepping our of our area and we're going to take a look to the other end of the country from the North West and the absolutely appalling situation in Norfolk and Suffolk.

Colchester Hospital declares a major incident and it makes headline news.  50 mental health patients are sent out of area in a week and it's only worthy of  local news.

There are two article of interest on the BBC website on this story,

Jeremy Hunt is quoted in the above article:- "In June Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt criticised the "unacceptable" distances Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust (NSFT) patients had to travel for beds.

And yet, the DoH push ahead in their demand that the Trust cuts its budget by 40million.

Listen to the story from one of the Service users who was sent away from her home also quoted from the above article.

"No bed could be found in Norfolk and Suffolk, so a bed was found for her at a hospital in Nottingham. She said: "A private ambulance came at 10 o'clock at night to drive me to the hospital. My friends could not come and see me (because of the distance). My husband could not come and see me.  "In the end I discharged myself. I did not want to be so far away from home. "It made my recovery slower. It was detrimental to my health and my husband's."

Their campaign group and their service users say the same as ours.  That the cuts and the closure of beds is having a devastating effect on the people who need those services.

We know that feeling.  We know that it is devastating and harmful.

We MUST stop dismissing these issues as too "local". Until we take a joined up look at what is happening to mental health services across the country, people will continue to be harmed.

The cuts to Mental Health funding and the closure of psychiatric beds is endemic across the UK and hurting people with mental illness everywhere.  It has to change.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Our response to the Trust's email to our lovely MP

There's a few things that bother us about the Trust's reply to David Morris's email.

We can summarise quickly as follows:

This temporary measure has been in place for a month and during this time, approximately 6 females from the North Lancashire area have been admitted to a Trust facility in the wider Lancashire locality.

6 Women sent out of area and 6 missing beds.  Neat.  Also...approximately?

"A campaign group has been started called “Beds In The Orchard” which describes itself as “a campaign for the reinstatement of female psychiatric inpatient provision at The Orchard hospital in Lancaster”. The group are tweeting from the handle @OrchardBeds and, amongst other things, are encouraging people to contact their MP."

Yes, that's us and contacting your MP is a perfectly reasonable course of action to take when one group of vulnerable people, in this case women, are sent out of the area to accommodate another group of vulnerable people, in this case men.

"It is important to note that the Trust provides beds on a pan Lancashire basis."

But apparently closing 22 male beds elsewhere in the county wouldn't impact on the need to provide additional capacity for men elsewhere.  OK?

"Demand for female beds can often rise in the spring time. In order to respond to these fluctuations, the Trust’s inpatient services have been designed so that the ratio of male and female beds can be flexed to respond to meet demand accordingly."

When there was the upswing in female referrals earlier this year, the Trust did not close the whole of one facility to men to cope with that demand.  Women were sent to The Priory in Manchester.

"The Orchard and the Trust’s other inpatient facilities have the flexibility to respond to an increase in female activity too. The Trust’s new facilities have been designed with this in mind and feature ‘swing beds’ so that the ratio of male/female beds can be altered in line with demand which is a dynamic situation."

The facilities haven't been "flexed" they have been closed completely.  

A letter from the Trust, via a local MP

We'd like to take the time to thank David Morris MP, who a number of local service users contacted at the start of our campaign.  He took the time to look into the matter and reply to each of us outlining what he had done and the response he had from the Trust.  The letter from the trust that he forwarded is below.

Thank you for your email.

As the Member of Parliament I am not directly responsible for the day to day running’s of individual health services, however I had asked the Lancashire Care Trust for a briefing on what was happening on the unit and why the decision to close the female beds have been made.

I have enclosed a copy of the letter below for your information, but I am pleased to say that this move is only a temporary arrangement to deal with a period where there are more male referrals than female ones and the female beds will be reinstated once the male referrals return to a normal level. The letter also states that at certain periods of the year female referrals rise over male figures and on these incidences the unit will be made fully female to deal with the demand for beds.

I trust the briefing attached addresses all of the questions you have about this change, however if you would like me to ask the Trust any more questions on your behalf, please contact me again and I will be more than happy to do so.

Yours Sincerely

David Morris MP
Morecambe and Lunesdale
House of Commons

Dear David

As you are aware, Lancashire Care provide 18 beds for adults aged 18 and over with a mental health problem in The Orchard in Lancaster. Usually this caters for male and female service users but temporarily we are using The Orchard as a male only unit.

The reason for this is that there has been an increase in the number of male referrals and a decrease in the number of female referrals; there are currently empty female beds in Lancashire. This is a seasonal fluctuation and historically there is often an increase in male admissions at this time of year. Similarly, demand for female beds can often rise in the spring time. In order to respond to these fluctuations, the Trust’s inpatient services have been designed so that the ratio of male and female beds can be flexed to respond to meet demand accordingly.

A campaign group has been started called “Beds In The Orchard” which describes itself as “a campaign for the reinstatement of female psychiatric inpatient provision at The Orchard hospital in Lancaster”. The group are tweeting from the handle @OrchardBeds and, amongst other things, are encouraging people to contact their MP. The group have also contacted the local media and will feature on Radio Lancashire at 7am on 4 November; the Trust will also be fielding a representative for this.

I wanted to brief you that this arrangement will be for a short period of time and bed demand is under constant monitoring. This temporary measure has been in place for a month and during this time, approximately 6 females from the North Lancashire area have been admitted to a Trust facility in the wider Lancashire locality. Bed usage changes on a daily basis and as soon as the peak in male admissions has settled back to normal rates, The Orchard will revert back to being a mixed sex facility. In the same way that the service has temporarily been switched to accommodate the increase in male admissions at this time, The Orchard and the Trust’s other inpatient facilities have the flexibility to respond to an increase in female activity too. The Trust’s new facilities have been designed with this in mind and feature ‘swing beds’ so that the ratio of male/female beds can be altered in line with demand which is a dynamic situation.  

It is important to note that the Trust provides beds on a pan Lancashire basis. Whilst every effort is made to place people as close to their home as possible, the most local unit may not always be the most appropriate for a person and placement is also determined by clinical need as well as location. The Trust is committed to keeping people in the Lancashire locality and reducing the number of people being treated outside of this area.

Future inpatient services will be provided from four purpose built inpatient units including The Orchard in Lancaster and The Harbour in Blackpool.

Kind regards


Steve Winterson
Engagement Director
Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust

Beds in the Orchard goes onto

Beds in the Orchard has launched its own petition on  If you would like to support us, please can you spare a moment of your time to share it.

One of the things we are hearing is that we need to show that people care and that our campaing is more than just a passing interest to a small group of local people.

Please help give us a voice.

The Beds in the Orchard campaign team.

The text of our petition is below.

At first glance Beds in the Orchard looks like a small local issue.  After all, what concern should be 6 female inpatient beds in one small psychiatric unit in a one small city be to people elsewhere in the country?

However; you should not be fooled by the small, local appearance of this campaign.  What has happened at The Orchard it is indicative of a much wider problem across the country with the chronic underfunding of Mental Health services impacting on the health and wellbeing of thousands of people and communities.  It is indicative of the hard price being paid by women and their families nationally; as they find that their local inpatient psychiatric care has disappeared, leading to them being separated from their support at the time when they need it most.

As time and again, the cuts to mental health care and the loss of psychiatric beds are not seen as newsworthy, and campaigns like ours are dismissed as being “too small” or “too local” for people take an interest; the wider picture of the loss of services is consistently missed and hidden.  Hidden, of course, until you need the service, only to find it’s not there. 

Closing The Orchard to women and sending them 30-60+ miles away for care:-
 - Discriminates against women
 - Deters women from seeking help, which can lead to increased detentions under the Mental Health Act
 - Harms families, especially children.
 - Puts a heavy financial burden onto families with substantial travel costs to visit their relative.
 - Causes the women uneccessary distress and anxiety by separating them from their support networks.
 - Can lead to women being discharged too early, increasing the chance of relapse and readmission.

We believe that inpatient psychiatric care local to home should be provided to both men and women.  We are petitioning that local inpatient psychiatric care is returned to the women of North Lancashire now.  There is more information on our blog.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

A meeting offered and a meeting accepted.

The Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust has offered representatives of the Beds in the Orchard Campaign a face to face meeting to discuss the issues in person.  We have asked for the information from our FOI requests before we meet.

We have accepted the meeting and the correspondence between us was as follows:

Dear Lancashire Care,

My name is **** and I am the Beds in the Orchard campaign spokesperson.  Thank you for your offer of a face to face meeting.  We accept, and will be happy to arrange such a meeting with you.
Although we will confirm closer to the date, we expect to be sending three representatives to the meeting and I will be one of them.  As two of the representatives work full time and the other part time, we will have to work with you to find a date when we can all attend.  For the sake of ease, we would prefer the meeting to be held in Lancaster as this is where we all reside and it will give more opportunities for us to find a time when we can fit this around our existing work commitments.

We tweeted that we would would like to have the information from our FOI requests before we meet.  These are:-

I am aware of two other official campaign requests.  One submitted by Ms ***** by letter or email and the other from Ms **** via "What do they know".  I have yet to have a response from the wider campaign community as to whether they have submitted other requests for their own information.   If you are unable to find Ms ****and Ms ****'s requests by name, then do let me know and I will contact them for the reference numbers.  The text from Ms ****'s request was as follows:

Please let me have copies of all documents, produced in the 12
month period ended 7 November 2014, including but not limited to
meeting minutes and relevant emails, in relation to the Trust's
decision to close The Orchard in Lancaster to female inpatients.

In particular, please supply documentation on the following issues
related to the decision:

* impact assessment of effect on quality of care to female patients
served by your organisation;
* consideration of the Trust's duties under the Equality Act 2010
Please be aware that we will be continuing with our campaign in the interim period between now and when the meeting takes place.  This will include publishing the outcome of our research and continuing liaison with the press.  The campaign will only cease if in the interim period the 6 beds at The Orchard are returned to female use.
Best regards,
Campaign Spokesperson.

Dear ****

Thank you for your email. Just a quick message to confirm receipt of your email. I have also passed on your request to receive your FOI responses prior to the meeting.

We’ll be in contact with proposed meeting dates and the responses to your FOIs as soon as possible.

Communications Team
Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Why I am passionate about this.

A piece from one of our contributors.  I think it speaks for itself.

I want to help. The reason why I am so bloody passionate about this is that I can spend months at a time in hospital because of my health, which can go completely haywire.  Them closing female inpatient care is something that in real time could hurt my family even more than me disappearing into a hospital for months can do, and believe me, it hurt everyone, but especially the children.
There are women, like me, separated from their families right now. A section 3 can hold you for up to 6 months. Can you imagine being kept away from your families and those you love for 6 months, with them struggling to come and see you? I can, and I don't want it to happen to other people.
People don't talk about mental health and mental illness. A lot of people who want to help the campaign, don't feel like they can do it in their own names because of the stigma.
I'm not sure what my point is here, except that I bloody well want those beds back as no one should get the same horrible sinking feeling I get every time I think about what could happen if I get ill again.