NHS officials have agreed to close inpatient mental health services at the Friarage Hospital in Northallerton.
NHS Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) says it has “agreed to strengthen community mental health services for adults and older people, so that more people can be supported at home”.
The aim is to reduce the need for hospital admission and to provide inpatient care, when it’s needed, in modern facilities, officials say.
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However the closure of the two wards has been criticised by communitg leaders amid claims the consultation exercise was just a runner stamping exercise.
The approved option, which was also supported by the main provider of mental health services in the area, Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust (TEWV), will see inpatient mental health services move from the Friarage, the trust has confirmed.
In the future those people who cannot be supported at home will be admitted to their nearest mental health hospital – either Roseberry Park in Middlesbrough or West Park Hospital in Darlington.
The trust said that is the case currently, a small number of people with severe dementia and behaviours which challenge will be admitted to Auckland Park Hospital in Bishop Auckland, the nearest specialist hospital.
The CCG said the decision was made following an extensive period of engagement and public consultation, which was overseen by NHS England and North Yorkshire Council’s Scrutiny of Health Committee.
It added that the decision reflected the feedback received from local people, including the consultation survey, which showed that most people who responded were in favour of this option – 442 people took part in the survey and 289 people (65 per chose) chose the option preferred by the trust.
However, the decision was also taken despite calls for the consultation to be halted.
Richmond MP Rishi Sunak also called for assurances from health chiefs.
In a letter to Colin Martin, chief executive of the Tyne, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust, Mr Sunak asks for assurance and clarity on a series of issues.
Last night, Upper Dales County Councillor John Blackie said the decision of the HRW CCG to close the two mental health wards at the Friarage, meant the trust had “further undermed the role it had played with distinction for many, many years to meet the healthcare needs of the vast catchment area the hospital serves, including some of the most rural communities in all England”.
He added: “Yet again, the CCG protests its strong support for retaining services at The Friarage whilst happily overseeing the transfer of these services, many of which meet immediate healthcare events, to hospitals much further away, consigning patients to unfamiliar surroundings, and their close relatives and friends to long distance journeys to visit them.
“For us in the Upper Dales, to visit Roseberry Hospital on Teesside – 60 miles away – will take up most of the day, and Bishop Auckland where the specialist dementia unit is to be located, might just as well be in a foreign country.
“No wonder only the usual suspects now participate in these fait accompli local NHS consultations, where without question they endorse the outcome that is favoured by the HRW CCG, in what is simply an exercise in foregone conclusions that in no way reflects what the overwhelming majority of the rest of us served by the Friarage want or need.
“The opposition of Richmondshire District Council and the Area Committee at North Yorkshire County Council makes no difference – the HRW CCG swept it to one side as it had already made up its mind before the consultation was launched.”
TEWV said it would now finalise proposed plans to further develop their community and crisis services, which will give people access to mental health support seven days a week.
Janet Probert, chief officer of the CCG said: “We are committed to developing sustainable mental health services for the people of Hambleton and Richmondshire and we are grateful that so many people have given us their views.
“People have told us that they wish to be cared for at home, or as close to home as possible and the agreed option will enable us to invest in our community mental health services and to work collaboratively with the voluntary sector.
“We know that some people are concerned about having to travel further to visit loved ones in hospital. One of the key benefits of implementing this option is that fewer people will need to spend time in hospital and more people will be able to receive their care closer to home.
“We also understand that local people are worried about the future of the Friarage Hospital and I want to reassure them that the hospital will continue to be an important part of local health care.
“TEWV are developing plans for a new base for community mental services on the site and
South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust have confirmed:
- That they support (plans) for an enhanced community model which is in line with our collective vision for more care at home and in local communities.
- If wards 14/15 are vacated by TEWV, there are options however it will not undermine the viability of the Friarage.
- They will work jointly with TEWV on plans for a proposed mental health hub on the Friarage site with plans where possible.
Elizabeth Moody, director of nursing and governance at Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We want to make sure that people get the treatment and support they need, when and where they need it.
“Local people have told us that they want improved community services and we now need to fulfil their wishes and develop evidence based services that meet their needs.
“Over the coming months our staff will be working with service users and their families to finalise our community services infrastructure and to get services up and running before inpatient services move from the Friarage Hospital.”
A date for moving inpatient services from the Friarage Hospital has not yet been set.
Major construction work is planned for Roseberry Park in Middlesbrough and the move will not happen until there is capacity at the Teesside hospital.
The full consultation report is available on the CCG’s website.