A woman has made an emotional appeal to reverse mental health reforms at a public meeting in Somerset
Somerset Health Directors announced plans in January 2020 to close St Andrew’s Wing within Priory Health Park in Wales, and move 14 mental health beds to Yeovil.
The closure was approved by the Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group in August 2020, but has been repeatedly delayed, partly as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Bev Anderson and other campaigners have now called on Somerset County Council and the new Somerset Integrated Care Board (ICB) to reverse the lockdown, pointing out that patients’ well-being would suffer if their families had to travel up to 30 miles to see. they.
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The council said the relocation would provide better access to emergency services when they are needed, and that individual relocation issues would be taken into account.
Bev Anderson shared her husband’s experience of mental health services in Somerset when the full council met in Bridgwater on Wednesday (23 November) morning.
She said: ‘My husband is a veteran of the Falkland War, and has PTSD. He’s self-employed – when the pandemic hit, he got nothing. To get specialist support, he was sent to Dorset – it was like a prison sentence.
“The care we need for our men, women and children is imperative. Mendip is a huge area, and we need St Andrews – there is nothing wrong with this building.”
“Everyone in this room is screwed up. Banks in this country are going to make £1 billion a year, and we’re still waiting for funding.”
There are currently four mental health wards in Somerset – two wards in Taunton near Musgrove Park Hospital, one (Rowan Ward) in Yeovil near Yeovil Hospital, and a St Andrews ward in Wales.
Campaign colleague Emma King said the pre-lockdown consultations were outdated, given the impact of the pandemic on mental health and soaring fuel prices. She said: “The impact of the pandemic and the current cost-of-living crisis is only increasing levels of economic deprivation, so people’s mental health is deteriorating.
Even if you think that the International Bank of Canada is planning to “move away from family-based interventions,” closing this ward is clearly ill-conceived. It would deny people in crisis access to a service close to their home, which could result in them being sent not only to Yeovil, but perhaps hundreds of miles away to places they won’t be able to be visited by friends or family, is essential support for a speedy recovery.
“Closing the well unit benefits the ICB, but leaves a huge hole for the residents of Mendip. We know that care in the community is not working.
“Please don’t push us aside.” Eva Briczkowski described the planned closure as “sad” and said the lack of public transport between Wales and Yeovil made the change unviable.
She said: ‘I’m looking for a timetable for the No. 77 bus from Wales to Yeovil. None of them run on Sundays – that’s the day when a lot of people are free.
“You are preventing relatives without cars from visiting their loved ones, those who have been forcibly removed from St Andrews Ward in Wales all the way to Yeovil. People with mental health issues do tend to feel isolated.
“They would feel it a lot more if they were an hour away from their loved ones who don’t have a car. Councilors should fight hard to reverse the decision made by the ICB.
“Otherwise, there would be blood on the ICB member’s hands — and honestly, your hands would be on blood as well.”
Councilor Heather Scherer, owner of the Adult Social Care Portfolio, said the decision was out of the council’s hands, but added it was important to address patients’ wishes on a case-by-case basis. She said: “The voices of the people who use our services need to be heard.
“The adult mental family is a small but important part of the new model of care, which focuses on supporting people as close to home as possible. The proposed move has been reviewed and confirmed by NHS England; the Clinical Review Committee was unanimous in its view.
“The decision was made about Wells’ ward’s distance from the ED and lack of 24-hour support, not cost. Transportation issues will be explored at the individual patient level.”
Ms Shearer indicated that the family was expected to move to Yeovil by the autumn of 2023.
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