Heysham woman waits 16 hours for a hospital bed

Helen Ducie, who has bi-polar and had to wait for 16 hours for a hospital bed at the RLI before being sent to Burnley Hospital instead.
Helen Ducie, who has bi-polar and had to wait for 16 hours for a hospital bed at the RLI before being sent to Burnley Hospital instead.
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A woman suffering from a mental health condition had to wait 16 hours in A&E for a bed.

Helen Ducie was forced to wait in the Royal Lancaster Infirmary overnight due to a shortage of beds in the mental health unit.

She was eventually taken to Burnley General Hospital for treatment, where she remained for a week.

Helen, who suffers from bi-polar disorder, had a severe psychotic episode while at home, and called the national mental health helpline for support.

They in turn contacted the police, who took Helen, who lives in Peel Avenue, Heysham, to the RLI.

“Two police officers waited with me the whole time,” Helen said. “I went through three police shifts because I was there for so long, but they were all really nice.

“The nurses and their manager were great; they kept apologising but it wasn’t their fault.

“They were ringing around all the hospitals in the area but there were just no beds.

“They made me up a bed and gave me food and drinks.

“I was taken to the mental health unit in Burnley in the end. There were a few people from Lancaster in there already.

“I was told I was lucky and that I could have ended up going to Birmingham.

“But you need your family around you and if they haven’t got a car then it can be difficult. I rely on my mum and dad a lot but they weren’t able to get to Burnley.”

Helen, 54, was diagnosed as bi-polar when she was 31.

She said the shortage of beds for such incidents is a concern.

“Care in the community isn’t always an option,” she said. “Sometimes people just have to go into hospital.

“Most of the time I just live a normal life but every now and then it just creeps up. If the help wasn’t out there then I or someone else could end up dead.

“I wouldn’t want what happened to me to happen to anybody else.”

Lisa Moorhouse, adult mental health network director at Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust, said: “The trust has recently experienced an increased demand for in-patient mental health services and this reflects a national shortage of beds.

“Our number one priority has been to ensure that our patients receive the highest quality care when they need it and in some cases this has resulted in referring patients to beds outside of the Lancashire area to ensure they can receive the treatment they require. The Trust is working hard to create extra capacity and ensure that patients can be moved back into the Lancashire area as soon as possible when appropriate.

“We have recently developed a number of initiatives to help reduce the pressure on beds, such as the opening of a crisis support unit, the opening of Home View, a step down supported facility in Blackpool and the development of a community based Acute Therapy Service.

“In addition we have opened an assessment ward for men and one for women. These wards provide a high quality assessment of someone’s needs and allows us to consider ongoing treatment in the community rather than in a hospital bed.

“The male assessment ward is now open providing 12 extra beds from the Hillview site at Royal Blackburn Hospital and a crisis support unit, The Towneley Unit, opened on the same site in December last year.

“This unit has six chairs in place of beds and is aimed at providing a safe therapeutic environment where people in crisis can be assessed and then referred to the appropriate service, or discharged.

“Referrals are being received from Community Mental Health Teams, Crisis Teams and Mental Health Liaison teams.

“The trust recently opened six female assessment beds which provide a 24/7 inpatient service from the Victoria Wing at Burnley General Hospital.

“This will increase to 12 beds in late summer.”