Kent hospital admits use of camp beds for some psychiatric patients

Kent hospital admits use of camp beds for some psychiatric patients
Psychiatric patients have been sleeping on camp beds in the
communal area of an acute ward because of a shortage of beds,
writes Sally Gillen.

Vulnerable people sectioned at Priority House in Maidstone, Kent,
are regularly accommodated in the makeshift bedroom.

A serious incident took place last month involving a man placed in
the lounge, but it is still being used. He barricaded himself into
the room, damaged furniture, smashed a window and absconded for
three days.

He was picked up by police and taken to a more secure unit after
his mother reported seeing him near her home.

At one point last month, the hospital’s 17-bed Brocklehurst Ward
had 23 patients and was letting people go on day leave so beds
could be used in shifts.

Paul Corry, director of campaigns and communications at charity
Rethink, registered his concern: “If people are admitted to
hospital they should be treated with dignity and respect in a ward
environment that is comfortable, safe and secure,” he said. “It is
hard to see how giving people a temporary camp bed could possibly
be therapeutic.”

He said there would be a “national outcry” if the same
accommodation were offered to patients with cancer. “We know that
staff are often under huge pressure to find beds for patients but
there has to be a better response to this problem,” he added.

Margaret Edwards, head of strategy at charity Sane, said: “There
should not be such over-occupancy in any psychiatric unit that
patients cannot be treated in a proper bed on a ward.”

She added: “Despite the priority and additional resources given to
mental health, shortages of beds still deprive patients of
fundamental dignity and care and place unacceptable pressures on
overstretched staff.”

In a statement, the one-star West Kent NHS and Social Care Trust,
which runs the hospital, said: “Z-beds are only used on a temporary
basis in the 136 emergency room when patients are admitted in the
middle of the night. The fact that the patient had spent the night
before in this room did not contribute directly to the

“At any one time there will be no more than 17 patients, plus one
possible patient using the emergency room, on the ward. The ward
does, however, utilise the beds that are made available when
patients are on temporary leave.”

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