Cuts could cost lives, meeting told

TWO people have died and more could follow if proposed cuts to mental health services become a reality.That was the claim of Bridge House worker Kris Mohtram, speaking at the meeting about proposed healthcare cuts in east Suffolk yesterday.

TWO people have died and more could follow if proposed cuts to mental health services become a reality.

That was the claim of Bridge House worker Kris Mohtram, speaking at the meeting about proposed healthcare cuts in east Suffolk yesterday.

He said: "Bridge House had a budget cut back in March. Three staff announced they were leaving. As a result, five people who use Bridge House went into hospital, (there has been) one death off the Orwell bridge (and) the father of that person had a stroke.

"Following the first fall from the Orwell bridge, we had another person who wanted to do the same. Narrowly avoided someone slitting their wrists, another death from falling into the river Gipping and (yesterday) we had an overdose."

He added more people would die if Bridge House and The Hollies, an Ipswich community service provider also for people with mental health problems, closed.

Mark Halladay, chief executive of Suffolk Mental Health Partnership Trust, speaking outside the meeting, said that following investigations the trust was satisfied that both the river deaths were significantly more complex than implied by Mr Mohtram.

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Mr Halladay told the meeting that if they had all the money they needed, he would want to redesign and keep services like Bridge House and The Hollies.

But he insisted they were a small proportion of the trust's services and that other work in the community - outreach services and crisis resolution teams - were being developed.

Drastic cuts are proposed in Suffolk East healthcare, which has combined debts of £47.9 million.

These include closing and selling the Bartlet Hospital and annexe in Felixstowe; closing the Hayward Day Hospital in Ipswich; and reducing inpatient beds at Aldeburgh Hospital to around 20.

In the field of mental health, proposals include closing The Hollies, Bridge House and The Pines occupational therapy centre, Ipswich and Old Fox House clubhouse, Stowmarket.

Around 50 people grilled healthcare bosses about the proposals, explained in a consultation document entitled Changing for the Better, at the Endeavour House, Ipswich, meeting.

Peter Mellor, of Cliff Road, Felixstowe, wearing a Hands Off Our Felixstowe Hospitals T-shirt, said: "It really, really gets up my nose when somebody says, 'I am going to make life worse, cut services, and I am going to call it Changing for the Better'.

"We are one week into the consultation period and staff at the Felixstowe hospitals are already being encouraged to leave."

But Carole Taylor-Brown, chief executive of the Suffolk East PCTs, insisted it was a move towards better patient care, although the financial situation meant changes were being speeded up.

The public heard that the health system was moving towards more care in the community and at home.

Mrs Taylor-Brown added that the claim staff are being encouraged to leave was "utter nonsense."

Outside the meeting, she added that the human resources department would be investigating this claim.

The public consultation period ends at the end of October.

What do you think about the proposed cuts? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail to eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk