Anger at mental health cuts

MENTAL health patients bosses have been accused of destroying lives by making swingeing cuts to services.At a heated meeting of the Suffolk Mental Health Partnership board, hundreds of people turned up jeering and shouting about decisions to cut vital community services.

MENTAL health patients bosses have been accused of destroying lives by making swingeing cuts to services.

At a heated meeting of the Suffolk Mental Health Partnership board, hundreds of people turned up jeering and shouting about decisions to cut vital community services.

One furious person shouted: "You are destroying lives. We have already lost one this week."

Proposals to go out to consultation on the closure of The Hollies garden centre in Ipswich, Bridge House clubhouse in Ipswich and Old Fox House in Stowmarket were all approved, along with proposals to merge wards at Bury St Edmunds and close learning disability day centres in Oulton Broad.

But during the meeting, Ian Hartley, Chief Executive of East Suffolk Mind, called on the trust board to resign.

To cheers and a round of applause from the audience, Mr Hartley said: "So much government policy on mental health is about getting people back to work, getting them off incapacity benefits.

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"This seems to have been completely ignored by the trust in its proposals.

"I wonder how the board members feel about their integrity in having to make these kinds of cuts, whether in fact it demands you to resign en masse?"

Other users expressed fears that cutting these services would actually end up costing the trust more in the long run.

Susan Leys, 57, of Leiston, said: "I have struggled with mental health problems for 35 years and I can't understand why you are doing this to our services.

"People get so much out of these day services, they are so valuable and if you get rid of them you are only going to end up with people back in acute hospitals, which will cost so much more."

PANEL

TENSIONS between board members also became apparent when social services staff on the board said they disapproved of some proposals.

Speaking about plans to close some learning disabilities services in the north of the county, Anita Cameron, assistant director of social care, said the county council had been unaware of the proposals until last week.

She said "As we are supposed to be in a partnership here that's not really very acceptable."

Graham Gatehouse, director of social care, said: "I would not like anyone to think there's resources available at the county council to replace these services."

Mark Halladay, chief executive of the SMHP, admitted the trust may have been insensitive in its handling of the news but stressed the board must make difficult decisions now in order to safeguard services in the future.

He said: "The board has got to weigh up two key things – its responsibility for financial stability and its responsibility for sustainable, good quality services."

Mr Halladay added that all staff whose jobs may be at risk will be given letters informing them of details as soon as possible.

Consultation on the proposals will begin on Monday .

The consultation documents will be available on the trust's website and the first of a series of public meetings will be held at Endeavour House on August 9.

Weblink: www.smhp.nhs.uk

n. Have you been affected by the cuts? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or email eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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