Concern at decision to permanently shut Aberdeenshire dementia ward
The Scolty Ward at Glen O'Dee Hospital in Banchory focused on psychiatric care of the elderly, particularly on dementia assessment.
It has been temporarily closed since October 2022 and it has now been confirmed it will now not reopen due to staff shortages.
A briefing update from the Aberdeenshire Health and Social Care Partnership, given to MSP for Aberdeenshire West, Alexander Burnett, said: "As you know we have been working to look at what staffing we require to safely reopen and continue to deliver a Dementia Assessment in-patient ward at Scolty.
"As part of that work, we looked at the requirements of the Health and Care (staffing) (Scotland) Act 2019 which will be enacted in April 2024.
"Implementation of the Act will require us to have, at a minimum, one Registered Mental Health Nurse (RMN) and one Registered Nurse (RN) on each shift but preferably two RMNs.
"To put this into context we currently have two RMNs and one RN available for work from the Scolty Team and we require a minimum of 10.42 full-time equivalent nurses, plus a senior charge nurse.
"As you know recruitment to our wards and our wider community teams can be difficult in our area and we have been absolutely delighted to welcome some new nursing recruits to our other Deeside Wards.
"However, there is a recognised national shortage of qualified Registered Mental Health Nurses which is impacting negatively upon us.
"This means that we have been unable to secure new RMNs for the area and this makes it particularly challenging to provide safe and compliant care at Scolty ward.
"The staffing challenges also need to be considered in the context of the other Deeside Wards. Even if we managed to recruit additional registered mental health nurses removing the members of Scolty Team currently work ing at Morven Ward would result in a destabilisation of the staffing to cover that ward.
"There is an opportunity here to provide creative and flexible solutions to support people with dementia at all stages to remain living in their local communities using the resource and expertise available from Scolty Ward.
"We intend to continue to develop that work and w ill eng age with staff, current and former patients, and service users along with their families to look at how we deliver a range fit for purpose and future proof dementia care."
Scottish Conservative MSP for Aberdeenshire West, Alexander Burnett, said: “The permanent closure of the Scolty Ward is a blow to the community who were hoping a solution could be found to enable it to reopen
“Facilities like this provide vital support for older people with dementia who should be treated as close to home as possible to minimise upheaval and a change in their lives.
“This announcement reflects the difficulty NHS Grampian is facing in employing mental health staff which is resulting in a growing number of community hospitals closing in the North East.
“While I know staff across Deeside are going above and beyond to provide the best care possible for patients, the Scottish Government has a duty to prevent mental health wards from closures like these.”
Scottish Conservative councillor for Banchory and Mid Deeside, Ann Ross, said: “The announcement that the Scolty Ward will be closed permanently is very disappointing for the community.
“I have long campaigned for the ward to reopen which would have allowed families to have their loved ones treated locally in Banchory.
“Centralising and closing inpatient dementia treatment is incredibly damaging to patients and their families.
“The Scottish Government and NHS Grampian must work together to overcome these recruitment struggles within mental health to ensure patient care in Aberdeenshire isn’t at a disadvantage compared to other parts of the country.”