Shaping and investing in future mental health services

Over the past two years, health and care services in Somerset have been reviewing adult mental health services in Somerset. As part of Fit for My Future, Somerset’s health and care strategy, regular conversations have been taking place between staff, patients, carers and colleagues in the voluntary sector about how people use services, what they find helpful and the opportunities to improve the support offered.

Working together, a new model of mental health care has been developed for Somerset which offers a full range of support from prevention and maintaining wellbeing through to crisis and inpatient care. Last autumn it was announced that Somerset is to receive £13 million of funding over the next three years to support the new model of community mental health care.

Speaking about the transformation of mental health services, Dr Alex Murray, a GP and clinical director for Fit For My Future said: “We recognise the historic underfunding and challenges in mental health services across Somerset; they’ve been apparent for some time. We’re excited to be developing new mental health support services and enhancing our existing community mental health and crisis services throughout the county. Our overall vision for mental health is innovative, and £13million trailblazer funding recognises that.  We’re investing in existing services and introducing new ones, closer to where people live and supporting them at every step of their journey”.

Acute inpatient services are just one part of the whole system of mental health care and support services, but a very important component for people facing the most acute mental health conditions or crises. 

In Somerset we have a countywide acute inpatient service with acute mental health beds for people of working age located on three sites: 

  • two wards in Taunton close to Musgrove Park Hospital,
  • one, Rowan Ward, in Yeovil close to Yeovil District Hospital, and
  • one, St Andrews Ward, at the Priory Health Park in Wells.

The configuration and location of these beds has been considered at various times in the past but over the last year a more detailed review has taken place, using a set of criteria shaped with input from members of staff, patients and the public. One of the key ambitions of the review was to reach a shared view about how the best and safest level of care can be provided for people with the most urgent and acute mental health needs who need inpatient care.

Commenting on the review, Dr Murray said: “We needed to understand how to provide the best care in the safest possible way.  Staff across the service in Taunton, Wells and Yeovil are tireless and dedicated in their support for patients and we recognise and value their commitment very much.”

“We’ve looked in great detail at what the best service shape might be and examined all the evidence closely. Our wards in Wells and Yeovil are ‘stand-alone’ which means there are no wards close by and so no other staff to support in an emergency when a patient is experiencing a medical or mental health crisis.  At times, patients on acute mental health wards will need acute medical support as well as mental health support. St Andrews Ward in Wells is 22 miles and around 45 minutes away from the nearest Emergency Department at Bath Royal United Hospital which can be critical if someone is physically ill or has harmed themselves in some way.”

The review analysed each of the three options against the key challenges facing the acute mental health wards for adults of working age:

  • Distance from an Emergency Department when patients need emergency physical healthcare support
  • Availability of additional staff to provide support in an emergency
  • Out of hours medical cover.

After careful consideration, the review concluded that moving the beds from St Andrews Ward in Wells to Yeovil would mitigate these risks and challenges most effectively because:

  • Rowan Ward in Yeovil is less than 1 mile from the Emergency Department at Yeovil District Hospital; St Andrews Ward is 22 miles away from the nearest Emergency Department at Bath Royal United Hospital
  • Co-locating the 2 wards would provide support to staff on either ward in the event of an emergency
  • Rowan Ward already has 24/7 medical cover.

Dr Murray said:  “We believe the best solution is to provide acute beds for mental health inpatients on two sites instead of three. We know some people who use the service and their families and visitors will be concerned about extra travel times but we have to ensure that their safety is paramount. We will bring together a group of people including transport officers from Somerset County Council to look at how we can support any affected patients and their families.

“We can confirm that 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 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.

Over the coming weeks the Fit for my Future team will be going out to talk to people at drop-in events close to the acute wards in Wells, Yeovil and Taunton and at Talking Cafes, actively encouraging them to share their views.

In addition our consultation document, ‘Improving mental health services for adults in Somerset: Our proposals for changing acute inpatient mental health services for adults of working age’ and an accompanying survey are available on the Fit for my Future website, along with a summary, an EasyRead version and a survey. Printed copies are available at GP surgeries; the three sites with acute mental health inpatient beds –  Rowan Ward, Yeovil, St Andrews Ward, Wells and Rydon Wards 1 and 2, Taunton; or by calling 01935 384119 or emailing  

Notes to editors

  • Consultation begins on Friday 17 January 2020 after being signed off by the Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group Governing Body; it will run for 12 weeks in total (until 12 April 2020).
  • All the consultation documents and the online survey are available on the Fit for My Future website
  • Fit for my Future is the Somerset’s integrated health and care strategy that aims to support the health and wellbeing of the people in Somerset by changing the way we commission and deliver services.