Dorset NHS Celebrates ‘World Mental Health Day’ by closing walk in mental health centre.

Dorset NHS Celebrates ‘World Mental Health Day’ by closing walk in mental health centre.

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Man tries to take his own life as he was told that the Dorchester Retreat was open when it was closed and was then given the impression that was going to shut for good.

Due to acute staff shortages the Dorchester Retreat (a seven day a week walk in mental health centre) closed on Oct 1st 2021 a year and  a half after opening. This has left a large whole in mental health sufferers mental health primary care. It was a major factor for one man to make on an attempt on his life.

At an urgent meeting convened by Dorset NHS (Tues 05 Oct)  Elaine Hurll (Dorset CCG) said that the inability to recruit volunteers, peer support specialists and mental health nurses both locally and nationally, a decision was made to temporarily close the Dorchester Retreat until early 2022. Other factors included nurses retiring at 55, natural churn of staff, recent resignations and staff working evenings and weekends were also factors in the shortage. The Bournemouth Retreat  which was opened in 2018 as a pilot scheme, was also suffering from staff shortages and as they pooled staff it was decided to rationalise the service in order to keep Bournemouth open as it is the only service available of it’s kind in East Dorset.

The Bournemouth Retreat is also used extensively as a ‘place of safety’ by both the Police and Ambulance which is  used greater for this purpose than the Dorchester Retreat. It was also felt that the Community Front Rooms (CFR’s) which are opened four days a week in Shaftesbury, Bridport, Wareham and Weymouth  would still be able to serve many of the existing service users in the Dorset Council Area.

The Dorchester Retreat were unable to draw on staff from these CFR’s as they are run by the Bournemouth Churches Housing Associations and are on different contracts. In fact when the Dorchester Retreat closed some staff left to join the Weymouth CFR as Bournemouth was too far to travel.

The Hughes Unit Group Supporters (HUGS) which attended Tuesday’s meeting, said that they were hugely disappointed at the closure of the Dorchester Retreat but also the lack of communication provided by Dorset NHS about it’s closure. Many of the members of The Dorset Community Mental Health Alliance ( which consists of third sector organisations and statutory organisations, were unaware of it’s closure even the Project Manager of DCMHA Nick Rowe didn’t know of it’s closure when HUGS forwarded the article, published in the Dorset Echo on Oct 1st


HUGS have known about the staff shortage since the Summer as they have been advocating on behalf of a man who has tried to take his own life three times in the last ten months but his local CMHT has flatly refused to treat him. He had regularly been using the Dorchester Retreat however on many occasions he arrived only to find it closed .

An arrangement was then made so that The Dorchester Retreat would inform Connections (the Dorset NHS 24/7 mental health help line) and those wishing to use the Dorchester Retreat would double check to see if it was open.  On the 18 Sep ‘Peter’ feeling low, wanted to go to the Retreat to talk to someone so rang Connections who told him that there had been no message to say it was closed. So he drove over only to find it closed. Another lady who had also double checked with Connections also turned up. He was  then given the impression that it was closing for good and that all remaining staff would be working  at the Bournemouth Retreat. He took an overdose and ended up in Dorchester County Hospital (DCH) for two nights. Later that week he started having pseudo seizures (epileptic style fits) brought on by his distress and anxiety. HUGS advised him to go to hospital where he was administered beta blockers.  When Peter said the Dorchester Retreat was closing the doctor was ‘Gobsmacked’ and he had absolutely no idea that the Dorchester Retreat was closing lending more evidence that there is a lack of communication to affiliated services and other stakeholders by Dorset NHS. HUGS has made an official complaint to Dorset NHS  about  the failure  by The Dorchester Retreat to inform Connections about  it’s closure and the impression it gave to ‘Peter’ that it was closing forever.

More to follow, subject to verification by Dorset NHS…….


Twitter: @hugs_dorset

                                                                                                                                              Copyright HUGS 2021

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