MP seeks assurances over mental health services at Friarage

Rishi Sunak. Photo: Guy Carpenter.

Richmond MP Rishi Sunak is seeking assurances from health chiefs about proposals to change mental health services at the Friarage Hospital.

Residents in Hambleton and Richmondshire are being consulted on a transformation plan for mental health services in the area which would mean more people being treated in the community closer to home with fewer admissions to hospital.

One option being considered would also lead to the closure of two mental health inpatient wards at the Friarage.

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Under this favoured proposal, inpatient care would be provided at either West Park Hospital, Darlington, Roseberry Park Hospital, Middlesbrough or Bishop Auckland General Hospital depending on where the patient lived and the nature of their illness.

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.

They are:

  • What is the specific increase in staffing and resources for the community mental health teams?
  • What will be the extra mental health capacity for Hambleton and Richmondshire in terms of hours/sessions/days of community care?
  • What are the current waiting times for assessment by community teams and what is the Trust’s estimate of what these will be in the future?
  • What will be the increased specialist therapies available to local patients?
  • Is there enough capacity at West Park (Darlington) and Roseberry Park (Middlesbrough) to cope with additional patients?

Further, Mr Sunak asks Mr Martin if he thinks it is appropriate to move inpatients some distance away from their home community given Department of Health guidelines on what are described as “out of area placements”.

The guidelines state that “placements should be in a location that helps people to retain the contact they want to maintain with their family, carers and friends and to feel as familiar as possible witjh the local environment.”

He also asks for the detail of the modelling data to estimate the numbers of people who would be affected by the increased travel times.

Mr Sunak said: “The general intention to beef up our community health services, as set out in the consultation documents, is to be welcomed. It does makes sense to people to treat people at home, or very close to home, where that is possible.

“But we want to be sure that the improved community service will fully compensate for loss of the Friarage beds and, where inpatient treatment is deemed necessary, patients and their families will not be greatly disadvantaged.”

He added: “There are understandable concerns about these proposed changes given the services that have been lost from our local hospital and the current question marks over A&E and critical care.”

The consultation, which is being carried out by the Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby Clinical Commissioning Group (which buys local health services on behalf of residents) and the NHS Trust (which provides those services), ends on Friday September 15.