Nick joins BBC Radio Kent discussion on further Mental Health bed closures in Kent

This morning Nick Fairweather joined Teresa Murray, Deputy Labour Leader in Medway, in discussing current proposals to shut the Acute Mental Health Admission Ward at Medway Maritime Hospital.

This follows recent closures of psychiatric inpatient facilities at Thanet and Ashford, this leaving just three admission centres proposed, in Canterbury, Maidstone and Dartford.

Kent and Medway Councils have responded to the proposal by commissioning an independent report published on 24.07.13.

The report broadly supports the closure, of itself, subject to important conditions:-

Firstly, a recommendation that all the money saved by the closured be re-invested in front line services.

Secondly, that a clear plan be developed, and evidence produced, of improvement in the remaining centres so that they truly become genuine ‘centres of excellence’ as it is claimed they will.

Nick expressed regret at the decision to close the ward at Medway.  He stressed how important it is that patients not be displaced from their loved ones and their local communities at times of acute illness and vulnerability.

He described the cost savings claimed as an “illusion” pointing out that doctors and other professionals making decisions on admission do so subject to statutory duties.  The likelihood is that admission rates will not fall.  Rather, the already over stretched service (which is running at 100%, in terms of acute admissions, whereas it should be 85%) will continue not to be able to manage.  This results in patients having to be taken out of area and admitted to private facilities at a huge cost to the tax payer.

The knock on effect is also that other services such as the police become over stretched in ferrying people across the county and wider afield, this distracting them from their own very important frontline duties.

Nick expressed the view that the clinicians at Medway currently provide a ‘centre of excellence’.  Mental Health Service goes beyond the ‘bricks and mortar’ it happens to be housed in at any given point.  There should be a new facility built at Medway if the existing ward is inappropriate but it is quite clear that the funding is not available for this.

The closure is bad news, Nick said, for patients and their carers.

To listen to the discussion please click below.