THE decision to close a Cumbria mental health unit has been postponed while a safety assessment is drawn up.

Service users, residents and campaigners had expressed worry over Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust's decision to temporarily close the Kentmere Ward at Westmorland General Hospital in Kendal.

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The Care Quality Commission highlighted the mixed sex accommodation at the 12-bed ward as a risk to patients.

Today, the trust said the decision has been reversed while a study considers if every possible option to meet the minimum standards without the need for closure has been explored.

Claire Molloy, chief executive said: "Since we made the announcement, we have been working with the CQC to understand whether we may in fact be able to safely manage some of the issues in the short term with minor upgrades to meet minimum regulatory standards.

"We therefore need to fully assess whether the actions proposed will negate the need for any urgent action, and therefore we will delay any decision about temporarily closing the unit until we have a full assessment of this, taking a final decision with our partners later in the summer.

"This means that we will not be closing to admissions as previously indicated."

Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust and NHS Cumbria Clinical Commissioning Group have agreed to set up a quality surveillance group is convened.

This will bring health organisations and regulators together to ensure all partners have a shared understanding about whether urgent action at Kentmere is necessary on quality and safety grounds.


Councillor Michael Cassells, spokesman for health and well-being at Barrow Borough Council, said: "I'm pleased that the comments that I put across on behalf of people from the Furness area who were going to be affected by this have been listened to and I'm happy to accept an invitation to be part of the surveillance group."

Tim Farron, MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale, also welcomed the postponement until the end of the summer.

He said: "This is a massively important first step towards keeping the ward open and keeping mental health services local.

"I am delighted at this news, and determined to continue the fight to ensure that the ward remains open."