By Saul Cooke-Black

CONTROVERSIAL changes to older adult mental health services in Gwent which saw the closure of a dementia ward at Chepstow Community Hospital have eased difficulties recruiting nurses, according to a new report.

Chepstow hospital's 15-bed St Pierre ward was closed in April, despite opposition being voiced over the plans which were launched in a public consultation by Aneurin Bevan University Health Board.

The last patient was discharged from the Chepstow dementia ward on April 9, with the new bed configuration completed on April 30.

In-patient care is now provided at three dementia wards - Ysbyty Tri Chwm in Ebbw Vale, St Woolos Hospital in Newport, and Ysbyty Ystrad Fawr in Ystrad Mynach, and at a single functional mental illness unit, at County Hospital, Griffithstown.

Difficulties recruiting enough nurses for older adult mental health inpatient units prompted the changes.

And since the changes were made, the number of registered nursing vacancies has reduced from 18 to three.

Recruitment for the remaining vacancies in ongoing, according to a report prepared for Monmouthshire County Council's adults select committee.

"The reconfiguration of inpatient services has resulted in a much more sustainable nursing and medical workforce and this provides the platform for further quality improvements within the service," the report says.

Currently there are five Monmouthshire patients on Sycamore Ward at St Woolos Hospital in Newport and three on Cedar Park at Ysbyty'r tri Chwm in Ebbw Vale.

Carers have not reported any problems regarding access or travel to the hospitals since the changes, according to the report.

However, parking at St Woolos Hospital continues to be causing difficulties and plans to ease the situation are being considered.

Proposals include providing 15 additional spaces on site and leasing an additional 120 staff car parking spaces for staff at Park Square car park.

Demolition work to create the additional spaces on site has been undertaken and funding to complete the work is being pursued, the report adds.

"It is acknowledged that car parking on the St Woolos site continues to be challenging," the report says.

"A review has been undertaken by the facilities division of parking arrangements on the St Woolos site and plans have been developed to ease the situation."

Bids are currently being prioritised for £200,000 of funding to invest in additional community support in Monmouthshire, the report adds.

One of these proposals includes a bid to enhance community transport provision in the county.