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.

Not financial reasons LCFT? Tsk!

First of all, Beds in the Orchard would like to send an apology to Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust.  We have previously stated that the Trust closed 15 bed male ward in Burnley.  It now turns out that Ward 18 held 22 beds.  We are assuming that the Trust were happy with this misinformation as they haven't corrected it.

However, we think that the Trust owe Beds in the Orchard an apology for stating publicly on BBC Radio that these changes have not been for financial reasons.

In the above Lancashire Telegraph article from March this year, it states...

"Ward 18 was due to close this year, saving £720,000 for the Trust's in year 7.45million cost improvement plan. But it has been confirmed the plans are slightly behind schedule – though the ward is still expected to finally close this year"

This makes it quite clear that the closure was indeed for financial reasons.  The article goes on further to state,

"Trust chiefs have been working on a programme to provide more community services, decreasing the need for in-patient beds."

We have submitted a FOI request to find out how the Crisis and other home treatment teams have been augmented in the East Lancs area to meet the needs of service users affected by this closure.

Finally, on the subject of the ward closure, the Trust says.

"The closure will only take place when it is clinically appropriate to do so."

We've heard that phrase before as we've been told that the 6 beds in The Orchard unit will revert back to female "when it is clinically appropriate to do so."

"Clinically appropriate", in our opinion, appears to be a meaningless phrase used to defend cuts to services.  The female service users of North Lancashire appear to be the victims of these "clinically appropriate" decisions.

S's Story - Moving female patients out of town is at best ludicrous, at worst, dangerous.

As our campaign gains wider attention, we are being contacted by more local service users who were not aware of the changes or the campaign to reverse the decision.  One of those service users "S" shares her fears and concerns about this change.

This is more first hand knowledge and experience of how the changes impact on service users and their families.

Dear Beds in the Orchard,

Hope this helps/makes sense as I struggle to write when unwell.

Suggestions that moving female inpatients out of town is not damaging to patients is, at best, ludicrous and at worst dangerous.

I personally know from my struggles with bipolar II, that I can rarely attend meetings with my CPN without the support of my partner and son. They are central to my recovery. If I was shipped out of town there is no way we would have time or means to keep up contact - potentially breaking bonds with my son, that I have fought so hard to rebuild since my PND, PTSD and psychotic episode on the postnatal ward after staff saw fit to (guess what) move me! All against the advice of the MH professionals...

In spite of the rise of stay at home dads and many families successfully co-parenting; my personal experience suggests that in the majority, women run their homes, make decisions regarding children and are better placed to arrange their child's day to day activities - even those women with difficult mental health issues.

For many patients gaining control in a positive way helps their recovery - taking away this option will greatly hinder recovery, increase stress and in turn extend stays in hospital.

This should be about what is best for the patient. If I were to be moved out of town because the help and care I would recieve would be greater then of course I would consider it short term, when I'm at my very worst BUT that isn't happening here and even in the above hypothetical situation I still would need to be moved closer to home as my mental state improved in order to become stable.

For people who struggle with change and need consistency this cruel decision needs looking at again.

Monday, 10 November 2014

We go national again as the Huffington Post picks up our story!

While at first we look like a small local campaign, it seems that the Beds in the Orchard has touched a nerve within the wider community with those passionate about women's rights and good health care taking up our cause.

Today, our campaign was picked up by one of team from The Huffington Post, a popular on-line news paper and the article is available to read on their site now.

We're proud of what we are doing here and grateful for the support we are getting.  Lets hope we make a real change.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Beds in the Orchard is now on Facebook.

The Beds in the Orchard campaign has now launched on Facebook following feedback from some of our supporters that they don't use Twitter, but wanted to generate more support for our campaign by sharing our cause with their families and friends.

The Facebook Page is -

Please like and share.  We can make a difference.

Away from family and early release - A husband speaks out

As we've said many times before, the closure of The Orchard to women doesn't just affect the women themselves.  It affects their families and those around them.  This email is from the husband of one service user from our area.

In 14 yrs of using of using mental health services this is the first time I've heard of any spare capacity in the female inpatient provision in Lancaster. It was always rare that a bed would be available for my wife when admission was needed, and a regular occurrence that home leave would lead to loss of a bed. 

When my daughter was 3 years old we had to travel to Kendal hospital for about 6 weeks using public transport, that was difficult, costly and time consuming. Just recently my wife had to be admitted to Burnley due to Lancaster having no spare beds. 

This resulted in poor care provision as the staff had no knowledge of her personality prior to illness or of the best way to deal with her. They then proceeded to discharge her before she had properly recovered causing extreme distress to our family who then had to cope with the aftermath of her actions. 

All of this could have been avoided had local care with those who know her been available, and easy access for her family who have been very proactive in her care and recovery with daily input.

Let's just remind ourselves again that when Keith Dibble was asked "Do you accept that moving these women further away from their families and children could be damaging?"  He replied "We believe not".

We are still telling you that it does.  We have first hand experience that it does.

Start listening Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust.  You are failing in your duty of care to us and we will not go away.

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Would I be less likely to get a bed if you publish my name?

This is a question that one service user asked me today when they contacted me about the campaign.  Their email is below.

Subject: Do you think I would be less likely to get a bed at all if I publish my name?

Knowing that there is support at hand is a huge part of coping with my mental health problem. The crisis team do their best, but there are too few of them and they are so overstretched. Sometimes, being a voluntary inpatient is the only option to stop things getting worse. But the thought of being sent so far away is terrifying. My parents would find it very hard ( and expensive) to visit and my friends, especially those with children would find it just as difficult or impossible. Isolation would make recovery much more difficult.  You've done such a good job so far raising this. What else do we need to do to get the beds reopened?


We would hope not, but we don't know.  One of our team has already spoken out in their own name as have two of our contributors, but we know its a fear that a lot of us have. We'd like to think that the Trust wouldn't behave in that way and we know that the ward staff at The Orchard wouldn't, but the fact remains that we are bringing the trust into the public eye in a very negative way.

We have to speak out though.  Denying women local inpatient care with no acceptance of the impact this is having on us must be challenged.

As for the last question of "What else do we need to do to get the beds reopened?", we don't know the answer to that either, but we have resolved that we will not stop campaigning until they are reopened and we will use any means that we can to apply pressure to the Trust until that happens.

How wrong does something have to be before they CHANGE it?

This is a quick summary of the main points made in this blog with links to the relevant posts.

In his interview with BBC Radio Lancashire, Keith Dibble, Deputy Network Director of LCFT was asked "Do you accept that moving these women further away from their families and children could be damaging?"  He replied "We believe not".

Well we are telling you that it is damaging, Keith.  We believe removing all local inpatient care for the women of Lancaster and the surrounding area is wrong and damaging because...

It discriminates against women.

It punishes women and families on low incomes.

It can lead to increased detentions under the Mental Health Act.

It deters women from seeking, or accepting help.

It affects families and children.

It damages women by isolating them from their support networks.

And lets not forget that even some LCFT Staff agree with us.

How wrong does something have to be before Lancashire Care NHS Trust will change it?

The Equality Act 2010 - How is this not discrimination?

The Equality Act of 2010 sets out a list of Protected Characteristics.  These are: (in no particular order)

  1. Sex.
  2. Sexual orientation.
  3. Race, including colour, nationality, ethnic or national  origin.
  4. Being or becoming transsexual.
  5. Age.
  6. Disability.
  7. Being pregnant of having a child.
  8. Being married or in a civil partnership.
  9. Religion, belief or lack of religion/belief
You’re protected from discrimination in these situations:
  1. at work
  2. in education
  3. as a consumer
  4. when using public services
  5. when buying or renting property
  6. as a member or guest of a private club or association
We believe that the women of North Lancashire are being discriminated against due to their sex when using public services.

The Trust says it's flexing, not discrimination,  but we'd like to change male and female for a few other protected characteristics to make our point.  How about...

There are more heterosexuals needing beds than homosexuals, so we will only treat heterosexual patients at The Orchard. All beds will be made for heterosexual use only and all homosexual patients will be sent out of the area.

There are more White British needing beds than Asian British, so we will only treat White British patients at The Orchard. All beds will be made for White British use only and all Asian British patients will be sent out of the area.

There are more young people needing beds than older people, so we will only treat young patients at The Orchard. All beds will be made for use by young people only and all older people will be sent out of the area.

It sounds so wrong doesn't it.  So why is THIS acceptable?

There are more men needing beds than women, so we will only treat men at The Orchard.  All beds will be made for male use only and all female patients will be sent out of the area.

Top 5 Reasons People Don't Share Their Stories on the Blog

Almost all of the work on this blog and on twitter is being done by a small group of people, with a much wider group of people supporting us.

We've had 3 - soon to be 4 contributions from local service users about their treatment and what being treated locally means to them and two anonymous contributions from people working in the trust.

Here are the top 5 reasons for not contributing, in ascending order.

5. Someone in my family works for the Trust and I'm scared they will lose their job.

4. Nothing will happen so what's the point? The Trust doesn't care about us, just money.

3. I'm just too ill to deal with this right now.  I want to help, but I just can't.

2.I'm scared that if I share my story, someone will read it and know it's me.  I don't want people to know I've been to Ridge Lea.

1. I'm scared that even if we DO get the beds back, if they know I'm involved, next time I'm ill, they'll send me away to punish me for speaking out.

So that's fear if being punished, fear of being judged for having a mental illness, fear for your family, despondency and illness.

Thank goodness some of us are able to stand up for those who want to, but  can't.

Friday, 7 November 2014

The care at The Orchard - Claire shares her thoughts.

This blog so far has focused on the Lancashire Care NHS Trust and how they are hurting the women they are supposed to care for.

We would like to make clear that the campaign is not against the staff at The Orchard and we’d like to spend a few moments focusing on the care provided by them when you are acutely unwell.  Claire shares her thoughts again.

Earlier this year I was admitted to Ridge Lea hospital and then transferred to The Orchard when that hospital closed.  My full story is here -

The Orchard is staffed by a dedicated team of qualified nurses, nursing assistants, occupational therapists, pharmacists, admin staff, doctors and a consultant psychiatrist with a penchant for Cadbury's chocolate.  While I was at the Orchard, I was always impressed by the care and compassion they showed to the service users they were looking after; sometimes under very difficult circumstances.

Whether it was the OTs getting people involved with ‘Wake up and Stretch’, when many preferred ‘Sit down and Smoke’, the nurses taking the time to talk with you despite being snowed under by paperwork, or the nursing assistants taking the time throughout the day and night to make sure that you were OK and had everything you needed, not one made you feel that you were a burden or alone.

Everyone was treated with dignity, everyone was treated according to their needs and no one was left to fend for themselves.  A great comfort when you are acutely unwell.

I am not saying that everything was perfect.  It was clear that many of the nursing staff would have loved to have more time to spend with the patients, if it wasn’t for the reams of admin they were expected to do every day.  Sometimes there was only one qualified member of staff on duty, which was a concern and sometimes communication about appointments was hit and miss, making you feel out of control, but the important thing was that the actual caring was always present.  The level of care was consistent, even with the staff working long 12 hour days.  You would expect that things would slip by the end of one of their mammoth shifts, but it never did and for that alone, they deserve praise.

There were some things that made being at The Orchard unpleasant, the main issue being the food.  This was a never ending stream of pre-prepared meals, shipped in and reheated on the premises, with nothing fresh at all apart from a bowl of fruit.  Because the food was always heated in trays, specialities were crunchy rice, where the re-heating dried out the rice at the top, bottom and sides, leaving only the middle soft, and a seemingly never ending stream of quiche for the vegetarians -  although they occasionally called it a tart or flan, it was pretty much the same thing.  As someone who believes strongly that fresh food is important to health, whether mental or otherwise, it was hard to be somewhere there wasn’t even an oven in the kitchen.

However; the people who served the food were always kind and courteous, even when people like me were critical about what was on offer.  The people who cleaned and looked after the building were also kind and courteous.  No one made you feel awkward or ‘lesser’ for having a mental illness.   For that I am grateful.

The environment at the Orchard was pleasant, although the outside space was disappointing after being in Ridge Lea Hospital where there had been large and pleasant grounds, with trees filled with blossom and wildlife running around.  The rooms were well equipped, with a TV in each room – although the bizarre choice of channels did raise eyebrows.  I didn’t meet a single service user who sat down to watch BBC Parliament in the whole time I was there.

There is a café that served fresh (oh joy!) sandwiches and decent coffee, with staff who could always be relied on to cheer you up.  It was clear that they all loved their jobs and in turn that made the café a very pleasant place to be.  It provided a much welcome rest from being in the ward, and an opportunity to talk to the volunteers; ex-service users themselves, who spent time listening to your issues and helping advocate for you with any complaints or compliments you wanted to pass on.

All of the staff at The Orchard and The Apple Tree Café worked hard to help people get well and supported them through really difficult times.  I am grateful for the care they gave me when I was unwell and I hope that people reading this will appreciate the good work they do too.

A letter from a worker in the Trust

Again we receive an anonymous email from someone at The Trust, again we have no idea who this is from, but have sent our thanks. "BananaJam" shares their thoughts.
[Edit - While we really appreciate messages from the trust, we really don't want to get people in trouble!]

I am following your blog with interest.

Following local news, This is Trust wide knowledge, and County wide is public knowledge.  It has filtered down through the grapevine that staff at the Orchard have been given a "talking to" to say nothing to anyone even inside the trust.

I work for LCFT.

What are senior management afraid of in this campaign. The truth is the truth. Public knowledge of Truth AND Lies is essential, especially in public sector services. If a health service is so afraid of a simple truth (truth already in the public domain) that it feels the need to order staff to keep silent, the question has to be begged, why?!

Nothing said to date that I am aware of has been anything other than public knowledge. By it's very nature, the whole issue being campaigned for is public knowledge.

Women, take heart, many of us working within the Trust are behind you! Women and Men. Many people are discussing it within the general public too. In the last week, I have heard people talking about it in my local town.

You have strong cross-gender support for an story that clearly has a major gender thread, in a subject area of Health and Wellbeing.

This is a campaign for fairness

The Beds in the Orchard campaign is run by a group of local service users, both male and female.  We are campaigning for the fair treatment of women in our area.   Our position is that both men and women should have access to local inpatient psychiatric care.  That both groups have equal rights to local inpatient care and that sending all of one group out of the area is discriminatory.

We are grateful for the support and interest people have shown our campaign.

North Lancashire; the area surrounding, Lancaster has been served by a mixed sex ward since c2008 when the Lancaster Unit opened at Ridge Lea hospital, in Lancaster.  Before then, there was a mix of provision in Lancaster, including both male and female wards. 

The Lancaster Unit had 17 beds, and throughout it's service, all 17 beds were used by a mix of men and women.  10 beds were used for men, and 7 were used for women.  At no point was the Lancaster Unit made male only, or female only.  Both sexes had the opportunity for local inpatient care.

In June, the Lancaster Unit at Ridge Lea was closed and the service users were all moved into a new unit – The Orchard in Lancaster.  The Orchard was a unit for anyone with an acute mental illness from age 18 onwards (no upper limit) and also including people with learning disabilities.

At the Orchard there were 10 male beds, but now only 6 female beds.  There were two swing beds that could go from male to female, so they became female at that time to accommodate the 7 women who had been transferred from Ridge Lea.  Another woman was admitted, so the totals were 10 male and 8 female beds.  When there is a peak in demand, The Orchard can swing the two beds back to male, giving them 12 male beds and 6 female beds.

Treatment under Lancashire Care NHS Trust is ‘county-wide’.  This means that if there isn’t a bed in your local unit, you can be sent anywhere else in the county where there is a bed.  When a bed became available in your local unit, you would be transferred closer to home.  Beds in the Orchard has never said or implied this is not the case. However;

There has always been inpatient provision for the women of North Lancashire either at Ridge Lea or The Orchard.  So there has always been the opportunity to be treated close to home.
We are campaigning, because in Oct 2014, the NHS Trust didn’t ‘swing’ the two beds at The Orchard, they closed the whole unit completely to women, creating an 18 bed male unit.  This means that all women from our area are transferred to hospitals a significant distance away with no chance of local care, for the first time ever.

The Trust say that it is due to a Peak in Demand for male beds, however such a peak in demand has never resulted in completely removing services to either men or women before and it come after them closing 15 male beds elsewhere in the county.

The Trust said in a Radio Interview on Monday 4th November that there had been a peak in demand for female beds earlier this year and now there was a peak in demand for male beds, but when the peak in demand for female beds happened they did not reduce the number of male beds in Lancaster or close The Orchard and make it women only, and women were sent as far away as Manchester for treatment.  They kept the 10 male beds in both units.

We at Beds in the Orchard are the family and friends.  We are the service users it is affecting.  We want inpatient care for men and women and for one group not to be denied local care because of their sex.