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Warning on mental healthcare services

A REVIEW of mental-health services in NHS Tayside has urged bosses to foster a culture of openness after a whistleblower raised fears over crowded wards and staff shortages.

Inspectors were called in after an anonymous call to the NHS whistleblower hotline in April 2013 in which the caller complained of a lack of beds at the Carseview hospital mental-health unit in Dundee due to spending cuts. The caller said the unit was at full capacity without enough staff, claimed sick leave was running at 80 per cent among the crisis team due to stress, and patients in need of hospitalisation were being released into the community.

However, the report by NHS watchdog Healthcare Improvement Scotland concluded Carseview's occupancy rate was high but "not exceptional".

Inspectors said the unit's dependence on locum psychiatrists and nurses had been exacerbated by a "significant reduction in staff", but said the sick-leave levels referred to by the whistleblower were outdated. However, they did find "a number of concerns" relating to patient discharge, including "inappropriate delays" in scheduling follow-up appointments.

Dr Alastair Cook, chair of the review team said: "We have put forward a range of recommendations."

Dr Andrew Russell, medical director for NHS Tayside, said they had responded to inspectors' recommendations and had recently recruited four new consultant psychiatrists in Dundee.

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