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Dementia ward at Glen O’Dee Hospital temporarily closed due to ‘significant’ staffing shortage

Glen O'Dee Hospital, Banchory.
Glen O'Dee Hospital, Banchory.

A specialist dementia ward in Deeside has temporarily closed – with some patients being moved to different hospitals.

Aberdeenshire Health and Social Care Partnership (AHSCP) made the decision to temporarily close the Scolty Ward at Glen O’Dee Hospital in Banchory due to “significant” staffing shortages.

A meeting was held with staff on October 10, and local representatives were told two days later.

Eleven of the 12 beds in the unit were occupied and last night AHSCP confirmed they had been moved to either the Morven Ward within Glen O’Dee or another hospital within Aberdeenshire.

The move comes just a month after the Mental Health Commission released a scathing report that some dementia patients in the ward could have been given anti-psychotic drugs.

Janine Howie, AHSCP interim partnership manager explained Scolty Ward has temporarily consolidated with the Morven Ward due to a “significant” staffing shortage.

She said: “The difficult decision to temporarily consolidate Scolty Ward with Morven Ward at Glen O’ Dee Hospital was made due to a significant staffing shortage.

“This will also enable us to implement our robust action plan to achieve the service improvements as recommended in the recently published Mental Welfare Commission Report.

“Our priority is patient and staff safety and the planned approach to transferring patients had to be expedited on Friday October 14 due to a sudden increase in staff absence.”

However, some relatives have claimed they were only told their loved one was being moved over a voicemail message, while some staff told the Press and Journal they had been unable to attend the October 10 meeting due to its “short notice”.

History of issues at Glen O’Dee Hospital

Glen O’Dee has recently had issues with the quality of care they have been providing.

In August, a family member claimed patients were being “forgotten by the NHS” as the garden had become so overgrown they were stuck in the wards.

The original building at the historic Deeside hospital was destroyed by a fire in 2016 and the family member also raised concerned about the safety of the old building.

The garden at Glen O’Dee is overgrown and “run-down”, according to one family member of a patient.

In September, Mental Welfare Commission launched an investigation a dementia patient was transferred to a care home in scrubs after they have no clean clothes.

The report also raised concerns that some patients may have been given anti-psychotic drugs unnecessarily, due to the lack of detail in the reports.

‘Not enough doctors and nurses recruited’

There is now a real concern that the AHSCP could be trying to close the ward for good.

Other hospitals in the past have been closed on a temporary basis and have yet to return, such as Insch.

Meanwhile, on Friday, AHSCP announced the Aboyne Community Hospital would reopen at the end of October after it had to shut for two months due to staff shortages. 

However, Aberdeenshire West MSP Alexander Burnett said he is still concerned about the future of hospitals in the area.

He raised the matter with AHSCP on behalf of Deeside hospital staff members who had been in contact.

He said: “There has long been a concern over the closure of community hospitals in Deeside, where staff are doing their utmost to provide excellent patient care.

Alexander Burnett outside Aboyne Hospital. Image: Scottish Conservatives.

“And we cannot afford to see another scenario like Insch, where a temporary closure seems to have become permanent.

“I will also raise the matter with the SNP health secretary because, at heart, not enough doctors and nurses are being recruited for the north-east.”

A Scottish Government spokesman explained remote and rural boards can find staff recruitment and retention challenging.

He said: “NHS Scotland staffing remains at historically high levels, up 2% on permanent staff the same time last year. This comes as part of 10 consecutive years of increases in staffing across our NHS.

“NHS Scotland Boards, including rural boards, are required to set out clearly in their workforce plans how they will continue to ensure safe and sustainable numbers of staff.”

“We will continue to work closely with remote, rural and island boards where we know recruitment and retention challenges can be particularly acute.”

Patients provided with suitable placement

AHSPC has reassured that all patients from the Scolty Ward have been provided with a suitable placement to meet their care and support – either in the Morven Ward or in another NHS Grampian ward.

The older adult mental health service will continue to be provided in Glen O’Dee in the Morven Ward, and patients will remain under the care of the older adult psychiatry consultants. However, patients with more complex needs may be moved to another dementia assessment unit within Aberdeenshire.

Additionally, family members have been contacted and meetings arranged where requested.

According to the interim partnership manager, AHSCP has been providing staff with briefings throughout.

Ms Howie added: “A further meeting will be held next week and there is ongoing communication with staff. Due to the shift working pattern of a nursing team it is not always possible for all staff to be present at all meetings. A staff partnership representative will be visiting the hospital site this week to support the staff team.

“This is not a decision that has been taken lightly, but we need assurance that the service is safely staffed while we support the Scolty Ward Team to make sustained improvements in service delivery.”