Wide concerns are being voiced against the proposal to close the in-patient mental heath facility at the Briary Unit in Harrogate.
A single proposal of closing the unit is on the table at a HaRD Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) Governing Body Meeting (Thursday, 6 December 2018, 10:00, Dower House Knaresborough) – a change that is going through without other options being considered.
Labour and Liberal Democrats are slamming the proposals, yet the local Conservative MP, Andrew Jones is sitting on the fence.
The Police and Crime Commissioner, Julia Mullian, has also spoken strongly against the proposal to close and the need for places of safety. It is widely acknowledged the pressures that the police now face in dealing with mental health patients.
The Briary is run by The Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust. They have deferred media contact to the Clinical Commissioning Group (NHS Harrogate and Rural District CCG) and our requests for interview have been declined without reason.
Although the CCG/ Trust say there has been a communication, as a publisher, we have not received any communication over the last 2 years from them.
Following a deficit in CCG budgets being identified in July 2107, work was halted on a new £16 million mental health facility on Beckwith Head Road in Harrogate. The new facility had been widely welcomed by all political parties, including support from Andrew Jones MP and the Police and Crime Commissioner, Julia Mulligan.
It is difficult to understand how we have gone from a new state-of the art facility being the right solution and having a business case in 2016, yet by 2018 beds are no longer needed in the district and the best option is to move to more out-patient treatment and to use beds in York, Scarborough, Middlesborough or Doncaster.
145 completed surveys have been returned as part of the consultation.
A spokesperson for Harrogate & Knaresborough Labour Party said:
Harrogate & Knaresborough CLP response on proposals to close Briary Wing of Harrogate Hospital for inpatient mental health car
Harrogate & Knaresborough Labour Party stand firmly against proposals to close mental health wards at Harrogate Hospital and propose that no facilities are withdrawn until replacements containing at least an equal number of beds and situated in the local area within our district are provided and ready for use.
Julia Mulligan, North Yorkshire Police, Fire & Crime Commissioner, said:
I am extremely concerned by these proposals.
I have consistently said that I believe section 136 suites should be protected so that we have adequate provision across the county for people who are detained in crisis under the mental health act.
When I first came into post six years ago, North Yorkshire was the only area in the country to have no specialist health-based places of safety. Four were opened – now Harrogate is under threat, Northallerton is set to close and York’s provision has been halved. I cannot square the circle – the government is committing more money, yet services locally are being seriously cut back.
This issue needs urgent attention and I need real reassurance that plans going forwards are sufficient to meet the needs of some of our most vulnerable people.
I am open to alternative ideas around service provision, but I have not yet seen the evidence that would justify further closure of health-based places of safety.
Andrew Jones MP has been quick to champion the opposition to move of the Harrogate Main Post Office, quickly coming out against the move. His response to the closure of the Briary has been much more measured and he has not gone against the proposal.
Andrew Jones MP said:
I recognise that many people will be concerned at the potential closure of the Briary Unit. I share that concern having long-championed parity of care for mental and physical health.
It would be wrong though to characterise this proposal as solely being about this closure. The proposal is also about increasing access to psychological therapies, improving mental health triage services to get people the support they need more quickly and responding more efficiently to individuals in crisis.
There are proposals to better provide home treatment too recognising that sometimes if someone is admitted to hospital in crisis that can be because the mental healthcare they have received has not been adequate to support them in their home.
The proposals are being brought forward by clinicians and that is correct as the clinicians are the people best-placed to decide how health services should be provided. But in doing so they need to explain the proposals carefully, be sure of their ground and reassure the public and particularly the patients who so rely on these services.
Andrew Jones MP had, in May 2013, spoken in the house, where he said:
I have long been concerned that mental health care is a bit of a Cinderella service within our NHS, and that is why I have chosen to speak up about it more than any other health issue locally.
Service users are often very vulnerable members of our community and are less able to speak up for themselves.
Some of the most challenging, complex and moving pieces of casework I have had to tackle have all involved mental health issues.
Judith Rogerson, Liberal Democrat, Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Harrogate & Knaresborough. said:
The Harrogate & Knaresborough Lib Dems have been raising serious concerns about the future of local mental health services ever since it was announced that plans for a new unit in Harrogate had been put on hold. It’s just not acceptable that patients and their families could be forced to travel such long distances to be able to get the specialist care that they need.
Along with other cuts to local healthcare services that we are now seeing, this is sadly another sign of the chronic underfunding of healthcare by the Conservative Government.
A spokesperson for Harrogate & Knaresborough Labour Party said:
In September last year, our members passed a motion supporting the provision of a new mental health ward in Harrogate, and supported a petition calling on Tees Esk & Wear Valley NHS Trust to immediately fund and restart the construction of the new mental health facility at Beckwith Head and to host a properly publicised local community debate on mental health services in and around Harrogate borough (https://www.change.org/p/fund-harrogate-mental-health-ward-yorkshire-young-socialists).
The past twelve months have seen rising concerns about mental health services for adults and children alike. Under the Tories mental health funding has been cut, the number of mental health nurses has fallen by 6,600 and mental health budgets have been raided to backfill financial holes elsewhere in the NHS. With 1 in 4 people experiencing mental health problems at some stage in their life, and the increase in elderly population within our district suffering from issues like dementia, the demand for such services is only set to rise.
In March a Trust spokeswoman said they were “working with HaRD CCG to engage with local people including service users, carers, staff and partner organisations through a series of public engagement events”, however from our experience we have found that the wider general public are largely unaware of said proposals, and while some public meetings have taken place, little has been revealed in them about actual plans. For example, last year in a meeting with the CCG, our members and other members of the public were told that plans to build a new facility had not been withdrawn, but were simply on hold.
Where the public have been consulted, it is overwhelmingly clear that they do not want to see services moved out of the district. In a report published by Mental Health Strategies in November 2017(http://www.harrogateandruraldistrictccg.nhs.uk/data/uploads/mental-health/mhs-harrogate-mh