Friarage Hospital could lose mental health wards

The Friarage Hospital could lose its adult mental health services under an overhaul of NHS services in North Yorkshire.

A consultation launched by local NHS commissioners puts forward three options for the future of mental health services in the area.

The NHS says the current mental health services at the Northallerton hospital are out of date and have been criticised by service users and clinical bodies.

Three options have been put forward as part of a 12-week consultation by NHS Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby Clinical Commissioning Group (the CCG) and Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust (TEWV).

The first option is to do nothing and keep the mental health impatient facilities, including two wards, at the Friarage, but options two and three propose sending patients to specialist impatient facilities at Roseberry Park in Middlesbrough and West Park Hospital in Darlington.

Patients with dementia would use Auckland Park Hospital in Bishop Auckland.

There is no option given to improve the facilities at the Friarge.

More local events have been confirmed as part of a 12 week formal consultation on improving adult and older people’s mental health services across Hambleton and Richmondshire.

Janet Probert, chief officer of the Hambleton, Richmondshrie and Whitby CCG said: “After speaking with many service users, carers, clinicians and voluntary groups over the past few months it has been made very clear that more support for mental health is needed in the community.

“We’ve already seen community services increase for physical health in the form of step-up/down beds and now, believe that care for mental health should be given the same level of attention. This is not just our view, but the view of many service users we’ve spoken with.

“In order to increase community services for adult and older people’s mental health, we’ve had to look at where most of the resource is currently focussed and that is in two mental health inpatient wards at The Friarage Hospital in Northallerton. Clinicians and supporting staff work hard to provide good quality care but the facilities are out of date and have been severely criticised by many service users and clinical bodies.

“The Royal College of Psychiatrists guidelines are that working age adults and older people should have separate in-patient facilities to meet their very different and specific mental health needs.

“This is currently met on site, however the wards are mixed sex and older people with organic mental health issues (due to medical or physical causes, such as dementia) are admitted alongside people with functional mental health problems such as severe depression.

“This means that we have an opportunity to take action and look at how we provide these services as a whole during this consultation.”

But Richmondshire councillors have expressed concerns about the removal of services form the Friarage.

They say the transfer would make it even more difficult for loved ones to stay in contact with patients admitted to the units.

Richmond district Lorraine Hodgson is urging members of the public to get involved in the consultation process and has vowed to fight any plan to reduce services at the Friarage.

She said: “This is really important document.

“We are at risk of losing these vital mental service at the Friarage.

“They want to close these wards down and transfer the beds to Bishop Auckland and we must not let that happen.”

The CCG says the consultation options have been informed by clinical and patient evidence gathered since 2013 and service user engagement on mental health since January this year.

It adds that two of the options emphasise strengthening community mental health services so that more people can be supported at home with the aim of reducing the need to admit patients into hospital.

Plans include providing seven-day access to community mental health services and establishing a dedicated care home liaison service to support people with dementia in nursing and residential homes and reduce the need for hospital admission. Talking therapy services will also be available six days a week.

For those very unwell patients who cannot be supported at home or in their own communities, two options propose that specialist inpatient care is provided in one of the Trust’s purpose designed mental health hospitals in Middlesbrough or Darlington and Bishop Auckland for people with dementia. Specialist dementia care services are already provided in Bishop Auckland.

The CCG and TEWV are also putting forward a ‘do nothing’ option which would mean inpatient services would remain at The Friarage Hospital in Northallerton with many of the current challenges and no additional investment in community services.

Janet added: “We’ve been very honest that our preferred option is to see community services increase to seven days a week and be made available in or closer to patient’s homes.

“We want services users, carers, staff and the general public to have their say on our proposals by coming to one of our many local consultation events or completing the short consultation questionnaire which can be found on our website or in hard copy at a number of community locations across Hambleton and Richmondshire.”

There is more information about the consultation and how to get involved on the CCG’s website:

www.hambletonrichmondshireandwhitbyccg.nhs.uk/transforming-mental-health-services

The online survey can be accessed via this link: www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/transforming-mental-health

People can contact the CCG by emailing hrwccg.feedback@nhs.net or calling 01609 767600.

Lorraine has paper copies of the consultation document. Anyone wanting one can call her on 01748 850879