Changes to local mental health services in melting pot again

PLANS for the care of mental health patients, developed after a public consultation costing more than £57,000, are back in the melting pot.

Friday, 26th November 2010, 3:34 pm

The Coalition Government has ordered a review of the proposals drawn up for this area by local GPs and mental health specialists, but NHS staff have denied it is because of budget cuts.

Even so, they have no idea how much the review, which has to be completed by February, will cost.

A Freedom of Information request to the East Lancashire Primary Health Care Trust revealed the cost of carrying out the review will have to come from its existing coffers, and staff will have to carry it out alongside their existing work, but it is impossible to gauge how much staff time it will take.

Like the original consultation in 2006, no specific budget has been allocated for the review.

The key costs of the £57,612 consultation covered printing and translation costs for documents, hiring rooms and catering for 16 meetings and Salford University’s analysis of the findings.

The cost was shared between three local councils and nine primary care trusts. East Lancashire paid £9,000 towards the £43,000 contributed by the other eight health trusts.

Ideas from the consultation had backing from the public and from health professionals.

Proposed changes were to have more options in the community for support and treatment when people have mental health crises in their lives, and, because evidence showed too many people admitted to hospital stayed there as there were not enough suitable alternatives in their communities, creating local purpose-built in-patient sites.

The review will have to prove the ideas have support from GPs, are liked by the public, have been made on clinical evidence and give patients a choice.

Brierfield GP Mike Ions, chairman of NHS East Lancashire’s Professional Executive Committee, said: “Since 2006 there has been considerable investment in specialist community-based mental health services.

“As a consequence of this, we should not need as many mental health in-patient beds as more people are being supported in the community. In fact, we are now experiencing under occupancy in some hospital-based services.

“As well as reviewing the proposals, we will also be examining existing community-based services to learn from best practice and to further improve them to ensure that they are meeting the needs of patients and their families.”