Mental health patients in Harrogate face a 25 mile drive to receive care as health chiefs make a decision to close three hospital wards and move provision outside the district.
North Yorkshire’s health watchdog has slammed a recommendation to close 34 mental health beds at Harrogate District Hospital, pushing patients as far as York or Darlington for treatment.
The recommendation comes after two years of research by Harrogate District’s Clinical Commissioning Group, which buys health services for the area with funding from NHS England.
Plans to build a brand new mental health unit on the Western side of town were postponed last year in light of a £14million deficit in the CCG’s budget, but have now been abandoned altogether as part of this proposal.
The CCG’s governing body will meet today to make a decision on whether to close the Briary Unit, Cedar Ward and Rowan Ward at Harrogate hospital, as recommended.
Councillor Jim Clark, Chair of North Yorkshire’s Scrutiny of Health Commission said the move would force Harrogate patients to be seen in York, where a new facility is under construction to replace the Bootham Hospital.
He said: “This is just the start of the process but this is the first time they have said they will not be going ahead with the facility at Beckwith Head Road.
“It’s now over a year since they said they would put it on hold and now they are saying they will move the beds outside the district.
“It will mean people will either have to go to York or Darlington.”
He added: “We have no timings on this but the new hospital at York will not be available until 2020.”
Dr Peter Billingsley, Clinical Lead for Mental Health at Harrogate District CCG defended the recommendation, stating that the ‘priority’ was to use resources to provide the ‘best possible care’.
He said: “The proposal the Harrogate and Rural District CCG governing body will be considering this week would enable us to invest more in community care, prevention, early intervention and recovery locally while ensuring that people who need to be admitted into a hospital receive appropriate specialist care in a setting which is best able to support their timely and sustained recovery.”
But Coun Clark says the proposals are ‘not good enough’ for the people of Harrogate and says he is considering writing to the Secretary of State for Health.
He said: “It’s not good enough to say that there will be more community services because it’s not one or the other, you need good community services and hospital beds.
“I’m very angry about this, for decades we haven’t had first class mental health facilities in Harrogate. I dont think we put enough emphasis on mental health in North Yorkshire.
“This is not good enough for the people here in the Harrogate District.
“We don’t want people having to travel further afield for their care. When you have people in mental health facilities they want their family and friends to come and visit them and it’s already difficult enough with the poor bus services we have in this area for people to make trips to visit them.”
He added: “They had an opportunity to improve things and it’s now been missed.”