On Thursday, 6 December 2018, HaRD Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) Governing Body met to consider the future development of mental health services in the region, mainly the closure of the Briary Unit in Harrogate. That’s the unit for in-patient mental health care in the area.
This was a meeting at the Dower House Hotel in knaresborough, a meeting that CCG had largely kept very quiet. That was very much in-line with their general media strategy around, on what they term a consultation over the future of mental health care in the area. There has been little to no pro-active communication to the media to communicate a consultation actually happening.
The proposal (decision) is to close the Briary Unit for in-patient care and for people to use more specialist care out of the area – in a new unit opening in York or existing units in Scarborough, Middlesborough or Doncaster. The CCG says that there will be a greater level of care to avoid crisis points and admission to a unit. Also, the proposals would give access to better faculties than is currently available in the Briary.
This was not a true meeting of a governing body, this was a show meeting for members of the public that attended. The meeting went through a overhead presentation, options of retaining mental health beds in the area had already been discounted as not viable due to cost. There was little discussion at the meeting.
If we turn the clock back, only a few years a new multi-million unit was seen as the solution for the area. That would have meant the closure of the Briary Unit and a new facility at Cardale Park. That project was halted as there was budget to build it, but not run it. Presumably a business and clinical case was developed at that time. Now we have a proposed and “best” solution for the region to be the closure of the Briary Unit. That is solution is driven by budgets and the group needs to be more honest with the public over that.
While it can be acknowledged that more care and support to avoid an admission is a good thing, it is not clear how many people will fall into the group that an admission is really the only way for them,
As the meeting started, the Governing Body group looked nervous and the acoustics in the room actually made it impossible for some to hear what was being said.
The group firstly answered written questions from the public, on the whole these were answered poorly. The group emphasised that they were committed to listening, but for what reason when the decision to close mental health beds is made, is difficult to understand.
Questions were raised by the public around suicide rates, the travel time to the unit, travel costs, difficulty of access and the importance of local access.
The Briary has 34 beds and modelling has shown that the area would need access to 26 beds, following these changes.
The Governing Body say that no firm dates have been set for a closure but, they will work with the community over the closure.
The decision around the Briary Unit is clearly being driven by the ever challenging budgets being managed by the Clinical Commissioning Groups.