North Yorkshire’s Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner and independent watchdog Healthwatch North Yorkshire have come together to raise their concerns about the provision of mental health services.
Proposals have been put forward by local health providers in Harrogate to close the second of North Yorkshire’s current four Places of Safety – these were discussed at their board meeting yesterday (6 December 2018).
North Yorkshire Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner Julia Mulligan said:
These proposals are premature and have not fully understood the impact they will have on local policing. In short, the plan means there would be no local Place of Safety for people in mental health crisis in Harrogate and the surrounding area, in turn leaving local police officers to pick up the pieces.
At the moment, almost everyone who is detained under the Mental Health Act is cared for at a health-based Place of Safety. Rarely are police cells used. The providers seem to suggest that those people in dire need of support in Harrogate will have to either go to York or Scarborough in the future, which isn’t good enough, especially when you consider those services themselves are often already in use and therefore unavailable, or revert to using police cells as a matter of course.
The situation is made worse still when you factor in the closure of the very same facility in Northallerton, further reducing the current provision for emergency mental health care.
We recognise the effort the proposals go to in improving community care, and helping people before their situation turns critical, but that in itself is not justification for closing their one route to urgent, local mental health support once detained.
This decision directly follows the Government ordered independent review, which says mental health detentions have increased 40% in ten years and police stations should no longer be used as a place of safety. The direct consequences of this proposal, despite the positive moves around community care, will mean there is nowhere locally for people in crisis to go and police officers, in direct contradiction of the suggestions in this review.
My call is for this proposal to be reviewed while stakeholders get around the table and look for suitable alternatives
Healthwatch North Yorkshire’s Operations Manager Nigel Ayre said:
At Healthwatch North Yorkshire, we have noted the transformation of Mental Health plan and recommendation to proceed with the options described in Solution 3. This follows a decision by the neighbouring Clinical Commissioning Group (Hambleton Richmondshire and Whitby) to take a similar decision and close inpatient mental health wards in Northallerton.
Viewed holistically, we have concerns about the ability of the system to provide adequate beds for residents of Harrogate and Rural District at alternate locations, as recent Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys Foundation NHS Trust board papers show the following year to date occupancy statistics against the 85% target:
Durham and Darlington: 92.54%
North Yorkshire: 94.58%
York and Selby: 90%
We have been told that service users do not want to travel a long way for inpatient care and that continuity of care and the ability of support networks to aid in recovery are negatively impacted when inpatient care is not provided locally.
Additionally, we are concerned at the potential loss of Section 136 facilities across the county. North Yorkshire was previously held up nationally as the only region in England with no health-based places of safety. A great deal of positive work has been done in recent years to remedy this situation, and currently the county has four such locations. One is currently scheduled for closure and these proposals could reduce these numbers to only 2 for a population of 600,000+ in the largest geographical county in England. This can only lead to a significant increase in the number of people in mental health crisis being subjected to unnecessary and traumatising detention when they are most in need of care.
At Healthwatch we remain concerned at current and potential loss of inpatient facilities within North Yorkshire. Any potential for relocation of inpatient facilities in Harrogate could and should be taken in conjunction with neighbouring CCGs. So far, no consideration appears to have been given to maintaining an inpatient facility in North Yorkshire capable of taking patient flows from both the Friarage and Harrogate hospital rather than relocating all of these patients outside of North Yorkshire.
We will continue to work with all parties going forward to ensure that patient views are represented.