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.
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.