Hill Crest mental health unit to close after safety concerns.

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By Michele PaduanoBBC Midlands Today, Health Correspondent

BBC General view of Hill CrestBBC

The Trust says building cannot be adapted to meet the latest standards for acute mental health.

A troubled in-patient mental health unit looks set to close following a catalogue of safety concerns.

These include fires, patients suffering broken bones and staff raising fears about the risk of fatalities at Hill Crest, Redditch.

To plug the recruitment gap, the trust which runs the facility is currently spending £2.5m a year on agency and bank staff , the BBC understands.

Herefordshire & Worcestershire Health and Care NHS Trust said the proposal to close was because the building cannot be adapted to meet the latest standards for acute mental health.

The BBC first identified problems at Hill Crest when staff locked themselves in the office in July 2022, after a patient threatened to scald them.

An investigation identified allegations of rape involving patients, staff sleeping at work, patients absconding and bullying.

A Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspection then found a significant deterioration in safety and quality on the ward.

In response, the number of patients was reduced from 18 to 10 to improve staffing ratios and safety.

Getty Images Lower view of two people walking down a corridorGetty Images

Unison has warned that more staff could leave

However, staff raised further concerns in a letter stating that although the number of patients had reduced, the patients being admitted were more seriously ill.

The letter said: “Staff are under a lot of pressure and we have people off sick with depression and anxiety because of the ward’s stresses and the lack of support we get.”

The trust said since then staff and management had worked incredibly hard to improve standards of care and the ward environment.

It added it recognised the building cannot be adapted to meet the latest care standards which include en-suite bedrooms and good lines of sight for staff throughout the ward.

A spokesperson said: “Our aim as an organisation is to run two main mental health inpatient campuses – one in Hereford and one in Worcester with wards and teams located together on single sites providing strong immediate support for our services.”

It is hoped that sharing staff with the Elgar Unit in Worcester could lead to cost savings on agency staff.

‘Staff could leave’

Claire Breese, from trade union Unison, said more staff could leave because they are not prepared to drive 30 miles (48.2km) to Worcester to work.

She said: “We have had a lot of staff concern about the move. They don’t believe it is going to make any difference to staffing levels.”

The Union said that the move ran the risk of creating more instability.

Collette Kearney, a former nurse, believes the unit could have been saved if management had taken action sooner.

“They had every opportunity to focus on issues years ago, when I first raised concerns. Patients and staff have been let down by this trust,” she added.

The trust said it had completed a number of engagement and listening events with staff and the public, a presentation and oversight at HOSC and followed NHSE processes.

“A report seeking ratification of this decision will be presented in July to the trust Board and formal consultation with staff will then commence,” it said.

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