More vulnerable people with serious mental health problems face travelling further for treatment in Yorkshire under controversial plans to close another town’s hospital beds.
NHS chiefs are recommending 34 beds in Harrogate are closed, with inpatient care likely to be to shifted 25 miles to York in 2020.
The move signals the abandonment of plans to provide new state-of-the-art mental services in the town which were put on hold last year amid an emerging NHS financial crisis in the area.
The shake-up will mean more treatment at home and in the community but it comes as similar inpatient services in
Northallerton are closed in February.
Health bosses say the plans for Harrogate are the “only financially viable option” but admit locating inpatient care outside the area is “contentious”.
There are around 300 admissions a year to two outdated wards at Harrogate’s district hospital which offer crisis care and treatment for severe depression and dementia.
Health chiefs calculate up to 26 beds would in future be needed for people from the Harrogate, Ripon, Knaresborough and Wetherby areas under the plans.
They say there is scope to expand the new mental hospital being built in York instead of transferring patients to other hospitals in Middlesbrough, Darlington and Scarborough.
Coun Jim Clark, chairman of North Yorkshire County Council’s health scrutiny committee, said the plans were “very disappointing”.
After a public consultation on the plans, Coun Clark said his committee will consider whether to refer the plans to Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock, adding: “We will be doing all we can to still have an inpatient bed facility in Harrogate if at all possible.”
Officials at Harrogate and Rural District Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) say efficiency savings of £500,000 from local bed closures would be invested in community services.
Peter Billingsley, the CCG clinical lead for mental health, said the plans would see that people needing hospital treatment receive “specialist care in a setting which is best able to support their timely and sustained recovery”.
Tolulope Olusoga, interim deputy medical director at the NHS trust, added: “We know that many people benefit from receiving care and support in their own home as much as possible, and this model will enable us to provide this to more people who require it.”
The plans in Harrogate have been backed by NHS England. Preliminary work on a £16m scheme to build new mental health facilities at Cardale Park in Harrogate was halted last year amid affordability concerns.
Work on the new hospital in York is due to be finished in 2020.
The facility, which has already seen its capacity expand from 60 to 72 beds, replaces the former Bootham Park Hospital which was shut in 2015 by the Care Quality Commission over significant safety problems.
Some 22 beds for mental health patients will lost at the Friarage Hospital in Northallerton, with inpatient services transferred initially to Darlington in February.
Community services are being bolstered to help more people at home while a new mental health hub is due to be built in the town.