Mental health warning over huge council cuts

MASSIVE job losses in the public sector over the next few months could lead to an influx of mental health problems, experts warn.

News that there are set to be big cutbacks across the country is likely to lead to more people suffering from anxiety and depression, according to Suffolk Mental Health Partnership Trust.

Professor Ian Robbins heads up the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies Services, which has been running for two years and supports people suffering from depression and anxiety.

He said: “There is quite an explicit link between unemployment and a deterioration in mental wellbeing. Depression and anxiety become much more common.

“There is a lag between people becoming unemployed and the deterioration of mental wellbeing. It may be a few months until we start to see the effects.”

As reported in yesterday’s Evening Star, there is a proposal on the table to merge the Suffolk Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust (SMHPT) and Norfolk and Waveney Mental Health Foundation in a bid to save millions of pounds.

In total, SMHPT has identified that it needs to make savings of �17m over five years and informal discussions about the possible merger to help make savings have been ongoing for around four months.

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Mark Halliday, chief executive of SMHPT said: “We have looked at whether there are opportunities to improve our services and make some savings.

“We are looking to take any savings from the merger into developing services.”

He said if the merger goes ahead, patients would not see “massive changes” straight away, but hoped that over time, it could be beneficial to share some of the services between the trusts, for example Norfolk is one of the leaders in dementia research.

He also reassured people that there will be some sort of headquarters base in each county. The new hospital being built on the site of Ipswich Hospital is unaffected by the proposal.

If it is agreed to go ahead with the proposal at this month’s board meeting, three to four months of public consultations will take place before a formal decision is made. It has to have the agreement of the board, health authority and the secretary of state for health. The earliest time the merger will happen is April 1.

Over the last two years, SHMPT has failed in its two applications for FT status. It is currently in the process of completing its third application but should the proposal be carried, this will obviously be halted

n The board meeting to discuss the idea of the merger will be held on July 28 at 10am at the social centre at the back of St Clement’s Hospital site, Foxhall Road, Ipswich.

Members of the public are welcome to attend but in order to estimate numbers, those interested in attending should call Julie Barns on 01473 329603 or e-mail