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NHS campaigners concerned over future of Ealing’s mental health services as more than 1000 people sign petition against cuts

Residents in Ealing have until the end of February 2023 to express their views on the provision of mental health services in the borough. The local West London NHS Trust says it wants to provide better facilities but campaigners from Ealing Save Our NHS are worried that services to help people may be cut with plans to reduce beds.

Changes being proposed include what will happen to 31 beds currently not being used in the Wolsey Wing at the Hope and Horizon wards in the Victorian-built St Bernard’s Hospital. According to the Trust, the existing wards are out of date and don’t meet many of the requirements for modern care.

Some fear that if the beds are cut along with other facilities at the site, the land could be used for a housing development similar to other parts of St Bernard’s which have been turned into residential accommodation.

In a statement, West London NHS Trust said: “There is poor ventilation, limited access to outdoor space and unsafe design elements, which could be used to cause harm. In particular, the Wolsey Wing, which was built more than 100 years before the NHS was founded, was deemed not fit for delivering modern health services.”

Dr Christopher Hilton, psychiatrist and chief operating officer for local services in West London NHS Trust told EALING.NEWS: “We’re grateful to those who have fed back in the engagement process so far. We’re especially keen to hear from individuals or their loved ones, who have used the services in recent years. The inpatient facilities for adult mental health services are no longer fit for purpose for the delivery of modern mental healthcare. They were suspended in 2020 at the start of the pandemic and as a clinician I’d be concerned to reopen them and reverse the other temporary changes that were put into place, such as the opening of alternative modern facilities at Lakeside, in Hounslow.”

Mr Hilton added: “Despite pressures on the NHS, there is no expectation around cost savings from our proposed changes – as all of the money is ring-fenced for local reinvestment and our focus is primarily on ensuring that the inpatient facilities we do run are safe and of high quality”.

Local campaign group Ealing Save Our NHS has presented a petition calling on local NHS bosses to re-instate these beds for adults and children who need them and have also produced a report setting out their concerns.

In its report, Ealing Save Our NHS said:

“This proposed cut would leave the whole borough with no acute adult mental health beds for anyone under 65 and leave many Ealing patients in a worse position than comparable boroughs. Although 17 more beds have been re-designated as acute beds at Lakeside in Hounslow (Robin Ward) using the money saved from closing the 31 beds in Ealing, that’s still an unacceptable cut of 14 much needed acute beds and a serious reduction in capacity not just for Ealing, but for the associated boroughs of Hounslow and Hammersmith & Fulham.

“Since 2010, 70 mental health beds have been closed in Ealing, including Hope & Horizon – so to cut another 14 across the Trust should be totally unacceptable, especially as it would leave our Borough bereft of acute adult beds.

“We also believe the proposed closures on the Southall site would adversely affect BAME communities more than others. According to the Trust’s report on 2017 – 2018, around 52% of their patients came from an ethnic minority background and this figure would be even higher for Southall and possible the North of the Borough. This means an already disadvantaged community would be even more adversely affected.”

The group further raised concerns about what it feels has been a low level of consultation taking place.

“Despite the large quantity of slide and statistics, it appears the Trust have chosen not to categorise the overall loss of beds and lack of adult acute beds for under 65’s for Ealing as ‘significant’. So instead of an actual consultation they are merely obliged to offer ‘engagement’. Meanwhile, we understand that the Trust is already advertising for additional staff to run their Ealing Crisis Team from the Hammersmith and Hounslow sites – which clearly suggests its engagement with the public and local authorities is purely cosmetic.

“The poorly advertised three online public events were only attended by a total of 7 members of the public (the majority being from Ealing Save Our NHS). At these events the presenters were eager to steer the attendees into discussion about bus fares for families travelling out of Ealing, rather than the actual decision to close wards. The issue seemed to be more opaque by the frequent references to other non-acute services in Ealing, which are of course not a substitute.”

Eve Turner, secretary of Ealing Save Our NHS said: “Hope and Horizon wards are the last two acute mental health wards in Ealing which can take for adults under 65. Closing them would be a loss of vital beds that the area can ill afford and it means adults in crisis being sent out of the borough away from their support networks. Children in severe crisis are already sent out of Ealing.”

She added “Ealing Save Our NHS regularly holds campaign stalls around the Borough and we have found huge concern over the shortage of mental health services. A thousand people have physically signed this petition, which we hope will focus the minds of the authorities. Suitable beds need to be re-opened urgently.”

Councillor Daniel Crawford, chair of Ealing Council’s Health and Adult Social Services Standing Scrutiny Panel told EALING.NEWS: “I am concerned about the loss of mental health beds in Ealing under these proposals. The panel welcomes the fact that the NHS have extended their engagement until 28 February 2023 and I would encourage every Ealing resident to take part. I fully support Ealing Save Our NHS in their long standing campaign to secure as many health services for Ealing residents as possible.”

Initially the consultation was due to end on 13 January 2023 but following talks with Ealing Council, West London NHS Trust has extended the consultation until 28 February 2023 so more people can find out what is being planned and to engage in the consultation.

On 30 November 2022, the Ealing Council Health and Adult Social Services Scrutiny Panel held a meeting which local NHS bosses attended.

The Trust is also holding an event for the public to see the Wolsey Wing at St Bernard’s Hospital on 19 January 2023 from 1pm to 3pm.  Ealing residents can book a place by clicking here.

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