December 14, 2022 7.00 pm This story is over 16 months old

Lincolnshire mental health staff “burnt out” by rising workloads

Some patients can be quite aggressive

Mental health staff in Lincolnshire have been burnt out by rising workloads and increasingly complex cases, sometimes with aggressive patients, councillors have been told.

Lincolnshire County Council’s Health Scrutiny Committee on Wednesday had an update on the closure of the all-male psychiatric intensive care service at Hartsholme Centre in Lincoln in November due to staff shortages.

Health chiefs from Lincolnshire Partnership Foundation Trust told members they hoped to know more about the future of the centre in March, but that the closure would “not be over 12 months”.

Sarah Connery, Chief Executive, said “the whole of health and care is operating under really challenging circumstances at the minute” with staffing and demand issues colliding with workforce leaving the healthcare sector.

A major issue, she said, was burnout, telling councillors: “People have been working full pummels over COVID.

“We’ve had increasing demand for our services and those people that are turning up for support are increasingly complex.

“All of our staff are having to deal with that and for some people it’s just too much, and so they’re leaving for other sectors.”

Director of Operations Chris Higgins said there were more opportunities for staff as the mental health sector continued to expand.

“As those opportunities become available, there’s a choice for staff to keep working in 24-hour services with patients that sometimes, or quite regularly, can be aggressive and really difficult to manage or work in a community service where you can manage your own diary, rota, your own appointments.

“For a lot of staff that’s a preferred way of working and it’s a better fit for their lifestyle.”

“Both staff and people have a choice about where they work and what they want to do and a lot of staff in the NHS are burnt out and decided to go and deal with the things that are not so emotionally demanding,” he added.

Sarah Connery said there were some “green shoots” around recruitment and turnover had started to dip. She added that the trust had “invested very heavily” in supporting staff.

Councillors were reassured that, although bosses could not commit to a timeline, they would reopen a PICU within 12 months.

Sarah added: “We fought really hard for our psychiatric intensive care unit in the county… our ambition is to remain providing psychiatric intensive care in the county for males and females.”

She said bosses were still waiting for a capital bid for a female facility.

Chiefs said they were disappointed at having to make the decision.

Councillors raised concerns over the further loss of services, but were pleased with LPFT’s honesty around the closure.

Questions included how the trust was dealing with the burnout issues, how they planned to reverse the trends around recruitment and how staff were being redeployed.

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