• Question: St Andrews Ward has been operating as a ‘stand-alone’ unit in the same way for a number of years – why shouldn’t it carry on?

    • Answer:  Somerset Partnership medical staff have been concerned around the safety of St Andrews for some time. It’s isolated (there’s no adjacent ward to provide support staff in the event of a crisis), a long way (22 miles or 45 minutes) from the nearest Emergency Department at or A&E at Bath RUH, and there’s no out of hours medical cover on site.  There are processes in place to support the functioning of the ward but they’re by no means ideal in terms of patient and staff safety. Rowan Ward in Yeovil is also a stand-alone ward  and carries some of the safety risks of St Andrews but it’s very close to Yeovil Hospital Emergency Department.
  • Question: Staff at St Andrews Ward say they can cope; they don’t agree with some of the evidence.

    • Answer:  We recognise this will be difficult for St Andrews staff; they’re very hard working and very committed. But as the examples in our consultation document show – there are very real risks to the safety of patients as a result of the distance from Wells to the nearest Emergency Department – it’s 22 miles or around 45 minutes travel time. There have been a number of occasions too where staff at the St Andrews and Rowan Wards have had to call for support from the police for support in an emergency because there are no other staff close by.
  • Question: It’s difficult to get to Yeovil from Wells / Shepton Mallet / Cheddar / Frome – public transport is really poor, especially on a Sunday

    • Answer:  Ease of access to Yeovil from towns and villages in the north of Somerset was a major consideration in our review; we’re very aware of the challenges people face because Somerset is such a rural county.  With the new and expanded mental health services located in the community closer to where people live, additional mental support will be available to help look after people at home, helping to prevent crisis before it reaches the point where they need to be admitted to an acute mental health inpatient ward.

      For those people who do need to go on to an acute ward, we’re also drawing together a working group with Somerset County Council transport officers, stakeholders and other interested individuals to better understand how we might help people who would find access to Yeovil difficult.
  • Question: Why can’t beds be moved from Yeovil to Wells instead? It would give a fairer and more equal spread of services between the north and the south of the county.

    • Answer:  We understand why people might think that would be a better solution but unfortunately the biggest obstacle is the distance from Wells to the nearest Emergency Department – 22 miles or 45 minutes – and there is nothing we can do to change that. 

      Analysing the real experience of patients who used the services at Wells and Yeovil during 2018/19, it’s clear that all patients would have a longer journey by private transport if beds were to be moved either to Wells or Yeovil.

      Moving beds from Wells to Yeovil: On average, a person previously admitted to Wells would face a longer journey of an extra 6 minutes if they had to go to Yeovil instead; 77 patients in all would have a longer journey time, 28 of them with an increase of more than 20 minutes.

      Moving beds from Yeovil to Wells: On average, a person previously admitted to Yeovil would face a longer journey of an extra 7 minutes if they had to go to Wells. 145 of them in all would be affected, 111 of them with a journey increase of more than 20 minutes.

      Calculations of the time for the people who used the service during 2018/19 to get from home to either Wells or Yeovil by public transport on a weekday afternoon show that around 36% of the patients could do the journey to each in less than 60 minutes.

  • Question: Is this part of a bigger plan to centralise services near the two acute hospitals?  What about people in the north of the county?

    • Answer:  No. We’ve recognised the importance of taking services closer to where people live rather than centralising them all into two acute hospital locations.  We’ve invested in our community mental health service and our home treatment crisis team to provide more support in the community at an earlier stage. Services available to people in the Wells/Mendip area will be enhanced through our additional investment in community mental health services and the development of new services such as our mental health and emotional wellbeing service. We are also appointing people with lived experience (our Recovery Partners) to work alongside our Community Mental Health Teams and Home Treatment Teams and developing a Crisis Café in the Wells/Mendip area.
  • Question: How will people in the Wells and Mendip area get mental health support if you take the beds away?

    • Answer:  The current community mental health services and other mental health support services in Wells will stay. All other existing services at Priory Health Park in Wells will remain, whatever the outcome of the consultation.

      In fact, services available to people in the area will be improved through our additional investment in community mental health services and the development of new services such as our mental health and emotional wellbeing service.

      We are also appointing people with lived experience (our Recovery Partners) to work alongside our Community Mental Health Teams and Home Treatment Teams and developing a Crisis Café in the Wells/Mendip area.

      The Crisis Café will provide a safe space for people experiencing mental health distress, and support for people at or before they reach crisis point; they’ll be open at times when people may need them most, for example, at evenings and weekends.
  • Question: Why move beds to Yeovil – it’s right on the border of the county?  Wells is more centrally placed in the north.

    • Answer:  The key question is about distance from an Emergency Department. Wells is 22 miles or 45 minutes away from the nearest Emergency Department whilst Rowan Ward is less than a mile away from the ED at Yeovil District Hospital.
  • Question: Is the proposal to move beds to Yeovil anything to do with the cuts to the ambulance service? They’ve announced cuts to the number of ambulances in Shepton Mallet, Glastonbury and Frome – has this influenced your decision? 

    • Answer:  No. We work closely with the ambulance service – they’re an important stakeholder – but the distance from an Emergency Department is the one of the crucial factors. It’s 22 miles or 45 minutes to the nearest ED from Wells and less than a mile to the Emergency Department at Yeovil from Rowan Ward.
  • Question: You say the average time to get by ambulance to the nearest Emergency Department at Bath RUH is 45 minutes – but how long is the waiting time before an ambulance arrives? Has this influenced your decision to go for Yeovil as your preferred option?

    • Answer:  The distance is the critical factor; any additional time waiting for the ambulance to arrive in the first place may compound it.
  • Question: Why doesn’t Wells have the same out of hours medical cover as Yeovil – they’re both described as ‘stand-alone’ wards?

    • Answer:  Out of hours medical cover at both Taunton and Yeovil is provided by doctors enrolled on psychiatry training programmes with support from consultant psychiatrists as needed. St Andrews is not eligible for accreditation as a training site due to its isolation and size, and is unable to provide the breadth of experience or supervision required by the training providers to enable out of hours cover to be safely provided.
  • Question: There’s a ward – Phoenix Ward – lying empty at the St Andrews site. Why can’t this be returned back into use?

    • Answer:  This was one of the options we looked at in detail but the cost of bringing the ward up to a standard that’s fit for now and the future was much higher than the cost of converting Holly Court which is adjacent to Rowan Ward on the Yeovil site.  Even if it were to be a less expensive option, there still remains the problem of distance from the nearest Emergency Department at Bath RUH, 22 miles and a minimum of 45 minutes drive by ambulance.  
  • Question: What will happen to the Wells site?

    • Answer:  There are many more services provided at the Wells site and these will continue. Contrary to rumours last year there are no plans to sell the site.  (See separate list of services on the Priory Park site).