South London Press – 23 June 2006
By Emily Twinch
An MP has joined the fight to save a 24-hour clinic for mentally ill patients.
Campaigners have been trying to stop the centre at the Maudsley Hospital in Denmark Hill from closing. They are worried that if the clinic shuts, more patients are likely to harm themselves, and that the suggested alternative of A&E departments at mainstream hospitals is unsuitable.
The groups approached the Conservative MP for New Forest East, Dr Julian Lewis, because he has a long-standing interest in mental health. He raised the issue in Parliament on May 25 and asked:
“May I appeal to the Leader of the House to secure from the Secretary of State for Health, whom I am pleased to see in the Chamber, a statement on the dangerous decision by the South London and Maudsley NHS Trust to close the emergency centre at the Maudsley Hospital?”
Leader of the House Jack Straw answered:
“I am sure that the arrangements being made in respect of the Maudsley Hospital are more than adequate to meet the needs of those patients.”
Dr Lewis raised the subject again during Business Questions on June 8 and said:
“The situation is very serious, so I would be grateful if he reconsidered his response [of May 25].”
Mr Straw answered:
“I understand the Honourable Gentleman’s concerns and I know of his profound interest in the matter, which I shall continue to pursue with the Health Secretary.”
Teresa Priest, co-ordinator of Southwark Mind, said:
“Dr Lewis shares our fears that vulnerable and desperate people will be wondering the streets at risk of crime and abuse, self-harm and suicide if the emergency clinic closes.”
South London & Maudsley NHS Trust (SLaM) plans to turn the clinic into a five-bed clinical decision unit. People would not be able to go directly there and would have to be referred by doctors, mental health teams or A&E staff.
The trust has delayed the decision since April but says it must make cost-cutting measures because it faces funding cuts from the Primary Care Trusts of Lambeth and Southwark.