Fury at mental health service cuts

TEMPERS flared as more than 100 people packed a meeting to discuss swingeing cuts of mental health services across Suffolk.The meeting was held yesterday by the Suffolk Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust to discuss a range of controversial proposals to save more than £5million in six to eight months.

TEMPERS flared as more than 100 people packed a meeting to discuss swingeing cuts of mental health services across Suffolk.

The meeting was held yesterday by the Suffolk Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust to discuss a range of controversial proposals to save more than £5million in six to eight months.

Among the closures being considered is the Hollies in Ipswich, Bridge House Clubhouse in the town, Old Fox Yard Clubhouse in Stowmarket as well as the Eastgate ward in Bury St Edmunds.

All of the proposals are now set to be part of a major consultation process involving members of the public and interested parties before a definite decision is made.


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But dozens of staff users, carers, patients and their families turned up at yesterday's meeting to protest at the planned changes.

A huge proportion of the visitors expressed their fury at plans to close the Hollies, which is a drop-in centre for people with mental health difficulties with 68 members.

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During the meeting Marvyn Turrell, a non-executive director of the board, said: "We believe the Hollies has done everything asked to break even, therefore why are they being asked to close?"

Mark Madden, the trust's Director of Finance, acknowledged the facility's hard work to meet the business plan to generate savings.

But he added: "The reason is not due to the effort that has been made, it's about what we can afford as a trust and unfortunately this is a service we cannot afford at this time."

Jacqui Martin, chief executive of Suffolk Carers, said: "I think any business takes three years to make a profit and I think there they should be congratulated for breaking even in the second year of their business plan. The third year is when you see if it's really viable."

The proposed closure of Heathfields in Newmarket, which provides an adult respite service for 23 people described as having complex needs, also sparked huge concern among the gathered visitors.

Mark Halladay, chief executive of the Suffolk Mental Health Partnership Trust, said: "There is a general acceptance the NHS should not be providing this kind of respite care generally and indeed this facility and the other in Lowestoft are the only two elements of elderly respite care we provide.

"All of this is cold comfort but gives some of the background to why we were considering Heathfields in the first place."

Jacqui Martin, chief executive of Suffolk Carers, said she had been contacted by a number of people who accessed the service concerned about the impact of closure.

"I think some of those families are at a huge risk of breaking down because they have not got an alternative in that area," she said.

But Graham Gatehouse, Director of Social Care at the county council, said the council had no funding to support those people affected by the closure.

"I don't want nobody to run away and think there is resources available at county to replace resources. There has got to be some method to find additional expenditure from the health system into the local system," he said.

Later in the meeting, Andrew Dalziel, head of social care, said: "These people who will be affected if the closures go ahead will have their needs looked at. Alternative provision will be looked at but the system is work pretty near to capacity already and I have to say there it not going to be an awful lot of slack here."

At one moment during the meeting, which reduced one service user to tears, a member of the public called upon the whole trust board to resign in protest at the Government's pressures to save money.

The response was that if all members were to resign, the board would be replaced by people who did not understand the mental health service in the county.

The trust has contacted all staff, setting out four proposals to save £5m and to modernise the service.

As well as ceasing some services, it is also planning to review services with a view to amalgamating teams, change them or reduce them, as well as looking at management costs.

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