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Islington mental health hospitals face closure

PUBLISHED: 13:45 29 September 2010 | UPDATED: 11:13 14 October 2010

THE number of hospital beds for the most mentally ill people in Islington and Camden will be slashed as health bosses face a multimillion-pound black hole. The 304 beds, which are for people who have been sectioned or who are at serious risk of suicide, a

THE number of hospital beds for the most mentally ill people in Islington and Camden will be slashed as health bosses face a multimillion-pound black hole.

The 304 beds, which are for people who have been sectioned or who are at serious risk of suicide, aggressive outbursts or self-neglect, will be cut to around 200 as health chiefs look to reduce the number of acute mental health hospitals in Islington and Camden from four to two.

The Camden and Islington Foundation Trust, which has an annual budget of £135million a year, needs to save £20million over the next three years.

It claims that the bed cuts will save the trust £3million to £5million a year - adding that at any one time, around 40 to 70 of the beds are already empty.

But campaigners insist that the only reason the beds are empty is because it is far too difficult to get admitted to a mental health hospital.

Shirley Franklin, chairwoman of the Defend The Whittington Hospital Coalition, which is campaigning for health services across north London, said: "As a mental health carer, I know how difficult it is to get beds for people who have mental health problems. There is a reluctance to put people in beds. The threshold is far too high. Islington has the highest suicide rate in the country and there is going to be an increase in mental health problems with the economic crisis. They are making cuts that will affect the most vulnerable."

Health chiefs claim that the number of people being admitted to hospital is constantly decreasing because of better care in the community - such as crisis teams and day centres.

Colin Plant, operations director said: "We would be making these proposals even if we didn't have these budget constraints. What we have found is that we can treat people with serious mental health problems in the community. But we will guarantee that if you need a bed, you will get one."

At the moment, the 304 beds are spread across four sites - St Pancras Hospital in St Pancras Way, King's Cross, Highgate Mental Health Centre in Dartmouth Park Hill, Dartmouth Park, the Grove Centre at the Royal Free Hospital in Pond Street, Hampstead, and Queen Mary's House in East Heath Road, Hampstead.

Health chiefs want to close the Grove Centre and keep the Highgate Mental Health Centre - but they are still choosing between Queen Mary's House and the acute wards at St Pancras Hospital. They believe that all staff affected can be found other jobs within the trust. Consultation on the plans runs until January.


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