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NHS Grampian: Moving Ward 4 mental health patients to Buckie dementia ward for 12 to 18 months during Dr Gray's Hospital works is "two for one"

By Lewis McBlane

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ALL patients from Moray's primary mental health unit will move to Buckie's Seafield Hospital for more than a year during Dr Gray's refurbishments under new plans.

Patients from Dr Gray's mental health ward will be moved to Seafield Hospital's Muirton Ward for up to 18 months, subject to funding.
Patients from Dr Gray's mental health ward will be moved to Seafield Hospital's Muirton Ward for up to 18 months, subject to funding.

NHS Grampian confirmed the move has been identified as the best option, but that the Muirton Ward will need "a bit of money spent" to make it safe and suitable and "we still need to secure" Scottish Government funding.

The plan was also confirmed through a Northern Scot Freedom of Information Request, which said the Muirton Ward – currently home to dementia patients – was a "suitable location to provide the same number of beds as Ward 4.

As a result, the ward could house 18 mental health patients for up to 18 months despite a 2022 inspection which said the Muirton Ward had only eight beds and eight patients.

Emptying Ward 4 is required, Simon Boker-Ingram, the health board's portfolio lead for Moray, said, to make Dr Gray's safer for mental health patients and to enable a new MRI scanner to be installed.

Making improvements at the Muirton Ward and moving patients there, he added, is a "two-for-one".

"There will need to be a bit of money spent preparing that area at Seafield," he said.

"But it's a very efficient way of doing it and the key thing is that it will be safe.

"Obviously there is a cost attached, but that's the money that we will be seeking from the Scottish government to help facilitate all of those moves.

"We have that opportunity, when we are decanted out, to get the anti-ligature work done and we can get the MRI installed.

"So actually we're getting two for one, really, with this.

"Because we would have always have had to empty Ward 4 anyway."

Mr Boker-Ingram said he expects an update in time for September's NHS Grampian board meeting, one which "moves us on" in Scottish Government funding discussions.

"We still need to secure the funding," he said.

"The intent is there from the Scottish Government to support us with the MRI and the anti-ligature work, recognizing the two are intertwined and interlinked.

"But clearly the government will give us the money at the point in time where we can demonstrate we are ready to spend it."

Housing Ward 4 patients in Buckie during the Dr Gray's refurbishment will mean patients can stay in Moray.

A full options appraisal had led to the Muirton Ward's selection as the best choice, Mr Boker-Ingram said, although "there were few" options on the table.

Adding that avoiding a move out of the area will benefit patients and families by limiting disruption.

"There were few [options], but we looked at all of those potentials," he said.

"It has been a long time getting here because of the complexity and the particular needs that group of patients will have.

"Most importantly, from my perspective, is that the patients remain in Moray. That was always the challenge.

"Had we not been able to secure an alternative in Moray, being out of the area would have made it really difficult for patients.

"But, as importantly, really difficult for family to visit and all those sort of things.

"And for when patients are reintroduced to the community."

Despite losing out on expertise at Dr Gray's, patients could benefit from specialist dementia care at Muirtown Ward, he claimed.

"Which would also mean that mental health services were adjacent to the Muirtown Ward, which is the dementia unit," he said.

"So there's actually a different kind of advantage there.

"A disadvantage maybe, not being on the Dr Gray's site, but an advantage in terms of relocating there."

Renovations at Ward 4 are mentioned in plans for Dr Gray's agreed as part of the Delivery Plans 2023-2026 at an NHS Grampian board meeting last week (August 3).

Responses to the Northern Scot's FOI request, read: "Muirton Ward at Seafield Hospital in Buckie has been identified as a suitable location for Ward 4 to decant to during the refurbishment works.

"To date no patients have been moved but Muirton will provide 18 beds for Ward 4 patients the same as the existing bed base."

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