EMERGENCY assessments for people in a mental health crisis has improved since moving to a ward in Devizes, say health commissioners.

The Bluebell Ward is a place of safety and means people do not end up in a prison cell or on busy A&E wards while experiencing a mental health crisis that police officers respond to.

Once brought to the ward either by ambulance or police car, they are assessed by professionals who make a decision on what support they need.

The Bluebell Ward at Devizes Green Lane hospital has temporarily replaced two other health based places of safety after both the Swindon and Salisbury units were rated inadequate by the Care Quality Commission in 2016 and 2017.

Bluebell Ward has a Good rating with the health watchdog and was praised for bringing waiting times for assessments down, and improving staff expertise.

However campaigns have been launched by people in Swindon calling to reopen the dedicated ward for people in a mental health crisis open in their town.

Sandalwood Court in Swindon and Fountain Way Hospital in Salisbury were temporarily closed in 2018.

A report into the wards found police officers would spent up to an hour with someone in crisis waiting outside the place of safety to be opened and once inside, there were often too few staff to run the ward safely.

Officers said that people in crisis would often be held in police cars on full view of the public making them even more distressed.

Protests were held when the Swindon ward was closed and a petition is still running to reopen it. They say that people should not be taken 45 miles away from their home to be assessed and called for Sandalwood Court in Swindon to be reopened.

2,400 people have signed the petition launched by Kate Linnegar.

However Sheila Baxter of Wiltshire CCG said: “The Swindon unit was only staffed when it was needed so police would often wait 40 minutes while staff were brought form other wards. From the point of view of someone being detained and also for the police they could be very agitated during this time and so was not goo for them. Although the time travelling may be more, this is a better use of time and less distressing.”

Around four people a week from Wiltshire are detained under the Mental Health Act and transported to the Devizes ward.

People from as far as Bristol have been detained to the ward, which is putting pressure on the service, health commissioners say. On some occasions people from Wiltshire have cannot go to Bluebell Ward because it was full of people from outside the area.

Recently both Bristol and Wiltshire units nearly had to close at the same time and said a plan must be in place to prevent people ending up in a prison cell if this happened again.

Lucy Baker, of Wiltshire Clinical Commissioning Group said: “We were very close to losing them both at the same time, Bristol because of significant damage caused by one detainee and Devizes because it lost water. We need to plan for what to do if both units were inaccessible and find a place that isn’t custody. More then 51 per cent of occupancy was from people not in the Wiltshire footprint. However we have never had anybody who has had to be detained in custody because it is full.”

A decision on whether to keep Bluebell Ward opened permanently as Wiltshire health based place of safety will be made later in the year.