CONSERVATIVE
New Forest East

'MENTAL HEALTH CLOSURE BRANDED "INHUMANE" BY MP'

NHS Plans to Close 18 Beds in Totton to Save Money

Lymington Times – 3 October 2009

Plans to close a mental health rehabilitation unit in Totton have been branded 'misconceived and inhumane' by a New Forest MP. Crowlin House is an 18-bed unit in Calmore Road which provides 24-hour nursing to adults aged 18–65 with a history of mental illness, but it has come under threat due to NHS cutbacks.

The Hampshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, which is responsible for the county's mental health services, has proposed moving away from traditional rehabilitation units and helping to give patients more independent care. New Forest East MP Julian Lewis voiced his concerns in a letter to Councillor Anna McNair-Scott, chair of Hampshire County Council's Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee, ahead of its November meeting to discuss the proposals. He said:

'I regard these moves as misconceived, inhmane and a reversion to the "care in the community" model which is widely recognised to have gone too far in the past. All the indications are that the Trust has made up its mind in advance of the consultation process and is determined to ride roughshod over the views of the community I represent. This will put some of its most vulnerable members in grave danger.

I have been contacted by relatives of several Crowlin House residents who are absolutely distraught at the prospect of the unit's closure. Some people do really need the safety of a structured in-patient environment and the philosophy that in-patient beds must be reserved only for the most extreme or dangerous cases is, in our view, unacceptable. Of course, I acknowledge that the Trust is trying to make financial savings, but it beggars belief that these should be imposed by destroying two of the most valued components of the range of mental health facilities which I am proud to have in my constituency.'

Seventy-year-old Anne Khan from Southampton, whose daughter Soraya (44) lives in Crowlin House, took part in a protest with other relatives, supporters and campaigners last week as the trust met for its annual general meeting. Mrs Khan said:

'I think [closure] is absolutely disgusting. It is a fantastic place and the staff are wonderful. People with mental illness are very frightened and moving them will unsettle them. I’m not just fighting for Soraya, but for all of the residents of Crowlin House – none of them will have a home.'

A spokesperson for the trust told the Lymington Times its funding stream was being cut from local councils and primary care trusts. He added:

'The changes across Hampshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust are aimed at making the service better for the people who use them while living within our means as an organisation. We want the people who we care for to have the care that suits their personal needs and so we’re proposing to move away from more traditional rehabilitation units and help give them more individual care to help with their recovery and enable them to live as independently as possible.'

A three-month consultation period with staff has been completed and the Trust was now embarking on meetings with relatives and carers of the residents to gain their views. It has also been proposed to close six psychiatric intensive care beds at the Ellingham Ward in the adult mental health unit at Woodhaven in Calmore, which opened in 2001 but, said the Trust, used an average of only four-and-a-half of its six beds.

'Ellingham is the smallest Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) in the trust, in an area of lowest catchment population, and the unit does not have the same level of facilities as other units in managing police admissions,'

said a spokesperson.

'It is proposed that people living in the New Forest will be able to go into the PICU in Southampton to avoid undue travel, although in some cases may need to travel to Basingstoke or Fareham, as happens now.'

The Trust is holding two 'listening events' in October, for which the dates are still to be decided, when members of the public can voice their opinions.