Potential changes

An acute mental health ward is where patients are admitted to provide them with the level of treatment and support they need. This might be because they need further assessment, they need to be kept safe or they need more intensive support than can be provided at home.

We took proposals out to public consultation on changing the location of the acute mental health ward in Wells because we had concerns about patient and staff safety. The public consultation ran from 16 January - 12 April 2020.

Two of our four wards for people aged between 18-65 years are located in Taunton with one ward in both Yeovil and Wells.

These two are ‘stand-alone’ wards, which means they are not close to other wards, and one of them is also a long way from the nearest Emergency Department.


There are three key risks of having stand-alone wards in their current locations in Somerset:


Lack of support from staff in a nearby ward for staff at a time of crisis.

When a ward is a long way from an Emergency Department there are sometimes problems in getting emergency help for people when they need it urgently. This is a risk when patients attempt suicide or self-harm or assault others. Wells is 22 miles away from the nearest Emergency Department and it can take 45 minutes to reach the hospital by ambulance.


Distance from an Emergency Department when patients need emergency healthcare support.

When two wards are close to each other, staff from one ward can provide support to the other whenever there is a problem. When there is only one ward, staff have no immediate back-up and have to resort to calling the police if they have concerns about the safety of patients or staff. This is the case in Yeovil and Wells.


Medical cover out of hours is limited, meaning that medical support is not always available when needed.

Medical cover means support from Doctors and Consultants, who can work in ways that other staff cannot, for example, prescribing certain medications. Out of hours medical cover is inconsistent across the three sites. It is available 24 hours a day at the Taunton and Yeovil sites, but this is not the case in Wells, where out of hours medical cover is provided by a GP or an on-call psychiatrist consultant by phone.

We have been reviewing options to overcome these challenges. Our preferred option, which we believe is the best way forward, would be to move the current St Andrews Ward in Wells to Yeovil.