A former mental health patient has branded the decision to close three hospital wards in Harrogate as ‘disgusting’ saying it would have been ‘impossible’ for his family to visit him elsewhere.
A Harrogate man with bipolar disorder has slammed a decision by Harrogate’s Clinical Commissioning Group to close 34 mental health beds at Harrogate District Hospital.
The man, who wished to remain anonymous, said he had once been a patient of the Briary wing - one of three mental health wards which are set to close as part of a shift of services to York in 2020.
He said: “About four and a half years ago I spent three weeks in the Briary unit myself. My personal circumstances were that I had no money and neither did my partner who struggled to afford bus fares and I was the only one who drove.
“At the time we had two school age children to look after and she was having to visit me at the Briary.
“If this hadn’t been a local facility, let’s say it had been in York like they want to do in 2020, it would have been almost impossible for my family. I would have been in there for three weeks and I wouldn’t have had a single visitor.”
He added: “I guess that the people making this decision have never had close relatives needing to use the Briary because if they had they would never want anybody to have to travel 20 or 30 miles for their care. I don’t know how they can look me in the face an d justify it.”
The decision by the CCG to move mental health provision outside of the Harrogate District also marks the abandonment of its plans to build a new state of the art facility on the western side of the town.
The plans were postponed in July 2017 in light of a £14million deficit in the CCG’s budget, but now have been scrapped altogether.
On Friday, the government announced an independent review of the ‘outdated’ 1983 Mental Health Act - the same day that the Harrogate CCG took the decision to close the district’s three mental health wards.
North Yorkshire Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner, Julia Mulligan, said the decision would leave police officers ‘picking up the pieces’.
She said: “I completely agree that the Mental Health Act is outdated and needs a complete overhaul.
“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. I worked hard with others to fight that injustice, and we now have four.
“But half of those set up are under threat – Northallerton’s is closing, Harrogate’s looks set to close. These decisions are short-sighted, wrong and unquestionably people in crisis will be let down in their time of need.
“Police cells are still having to be used as a place of safety in North Yorkshire so we should be investing in more health-based facilities, not closing those we do have.
“We are running the risk of failing people who are facing mental health crises and not providing the support they need close to where they live, putting more stress on them, their families and the authorities – such as the police – who have to pick up the pieces.”
Dr Peter Billingsley, Clinical Lead for Mental Health for Harrogate CCG said: “The solution adopted will release over £500,000 for enhanced community services which could pay for over 14 additional mental health workers. This will enable us to reduce admissions and ensure that people who are admitted return home sooner.
“We appreciate that a number of people felt it was important to have an inpatient unit in Harrogate and we explored a range of options for doing this. However, we concluded that the approved model is the only option that will allow us to maximise patient safety and deliver the quality of the patient experience. We will now continue our discussions with people across the district.”
Dr Billingsley accepted the decision had an impact on police section 136 suites but said discussions are ongoing to develop a range of options to create places of safety to ensure that people get the support they need when they need it.