Richmondshire Liberal Democrats have called for a halt to a consultation on the future of mental health services in the area.
Members of the party’s local branch held an action day in Richmond Market Place on Saturday to raise awareness of a review of mental health services that is currently underway.
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).
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Instead, patients needing hospital treatment would be seen elsewhere, including hospitals in Bishop Auckland, Middlesbrough or Darlington.
The NHS says the current mental health services at the Northallerton hospital are out of date and have been criticised by service users and clinical bodies.
They say the closure of the Northallerton wards would free up money that could be used to treat more people in the community.
Jo Foster, from the Richmondshire Lib Dems, said: “We do not agree with the assumption that lack of funds requires a choice to be made between keeping the two mental health wards at the Friarage open and investing in improved community services.
“This should not be an either/or choice, especially given the promises made by Jeremy Hunt to invest £1bn extra in mental health services.
“The fact that the £6.5m investment in a new Friarage Community Hub, two thirds of which is office space, is being ring-fenced and not considered as part of the main consultation raises further questions.”
The Lib Dems have launched a Stop the Clock campaign urging the current consultation to be stopped until “questions and assumptions can be clarified”.
More than 100 signatures were collected yesterday from people who back the call for the consultation to be halted.
The group were joined by Roger Tuckett, the chair of Hambleton & Richmondshire Mental Health Forum, who has produced an independent report assessing the reconfiguration of mental health services in Hambleton and Richmondshire.
Announcing the launch of the consultation, Janet Probert, chief officer of the Hambleton, Richmondshrie and Whitby CCG said that after speaking to 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.
She added: “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.”
There is more information about the consultation and how to get involved on the CCG’s website:
To read a copy of the leaflet being handed out by the Lib Dems click here.