The meeting, at the Corn Exchange, Rochester, was part of a public consultation on plans to improve care for people having a mental health crisis.
Most people who become suddenly and seriously mentally ill prefer to be treated at home, supported by friends and family, and this has been shown to result in a quicker recovery. However others, who cannot be safely looked after at home, need to be treated in specialist hospital units. The consultation proposes that existing mental health units in Dartford, Maidstone and Canterbury, which have a high quality environment, become centres of excellence.
A Block, the unit at Medway Maritime Hospital for people from Medway, Sittingbourne and Sheppey, is not of the same standard and, under these plans, it would no longer be used for mental health patients.
Instead, people of working age from Medway, who are so unwell they need inpatient care, would be looked after at Dartford’s centre of excellence, at Little Brook Hospital. People from Sittingbourne and Sheppey who also currently use A Block could be looked after in any of the centres of excellence and this is part of the consultation.
NHS Kent and Medway, which plans and pays for healthcare for local people, has drawn up the plans with the mental health trust, Kent and Medway NHS and Social Care Partnership Trust.
Lauretta Kavanagh, Director of Mental Health Commissioning for NHS Kent and Medway, told the meeting of 53 service users, carers, community representatives and health professionals held on Tuesday, 4 September: “There is more violence and there are more incidents at A Block than elsewhere, and this is largely attributable to the environment.
“We want people from Medway, Sittingbourne and Sheppey to have the same opportunities as people from the rest of Kent. On A Block, we are saying ‘Enough is enough’.”
Helen Butler, 45, from Rochester, who was treated as an inpatient at A Block after becoming very unwell in her early 20s, said: “Why does the hospital have to be so far away? It is very frightening for people to have to go somewhere they don’t know and, if someone is very badly ill, it will be a grave shock.”
Lauretta Kavanagh said: “We have looked at all the property the NHS owns in Medway to see if there was anywhere that could be changed to become fit for purpose for a mental health inpatient unit. There wasn’t. We also looked into building a brand new unit here. We couldn’t.
“Even if there had been, or we could, there would be a question of affordability. Supposing we could find some way to borrow the £7-13million needed, we can’t reasonably see a way to pay it back without a very serious impact on community mental health services.
“And it would need to have the right staff, with the right skills, 24 hours a day every day to make it clinically sustainable.”
David Tamsitt, KMPT Director of Acute Services added: “Most people experiencing a mental health crisis will continue to be looked after at home in Medway, by the local crisis team. Hospital is the last resort.”
People are invited to read about the proposals and respond to the consultation at www.kmpt.nhs.uk/acute-mental-health-review or for a copy, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0800 085 6606 or 01227 791281.
The closing date for responses is 26 October 2012.
10 September 2012