Written by ROB SMYTH
BURTON’S MP says ‘people in the town have been lied to’ after it emerged that a vital transport scheme designed to help people visit relatives being treated for mental health issues had been axed.
Andrew Griffiths demanded answers from South Staffordshire and Shropshire NHS Foundation Trust after learning people from Burton were no longer able to receive support in travelling to sites in Tamworth and Stafford, where their loved ones are now treated following the controversial closure of the Margaret Stanhope Centre in 2012.
He branded the claim that the scheme was only available for six months as ‘ludicrous’ and was disgusted to learn about it only when an elderly constituent revealed that he was denied help and was then forced to choose between a £66 taxi trip or a seven-hour journey on public transport to visit his sick wife.
Mr Griffiths said: “The trust assured the community in Burton and politicians that they would have in place a plan to support those families and whoever else needed help.
“At no stage during this was it mentioned that this scheme would only be in place for six months.
“Simply put, politicians, the Burton Mail and the public have been misled over this scheme and it is essential that a new scheme is put in its place.
“This news poses questions about the integrity of the people that made the decision to close the centre, in the face of opposition from thousands, and serious questions need to be asked to make sure other promises that were made have been kept.
“A constituent was told that not only could they no longer access it, but that it just did not exist.
“If true, it is an absolute outrage and the trust has lied to us in order to push through with the closure of the Margaret Stanhope.
“I was only alerted to this when a constituent came to me and told me of this horrific unfolding.
“His wife was taken ill and admitted to Stafford and he tried for help, but instead was faced with the prospect of a £66 taxi trip or a seven-hour journey on public transport.
“We now could be facing the situation that people in Burton, when their family members are taken ill, having no opportunity to visit them.
“This is a travesty, a disgusting state of affairs and an affront to the recovery of these people.”
A spokesman for South Staffordshire and Shropshire NHS Foundation Trust said: “At the time of the closure of the Margaret Stanhope Centre, the commissioners of the service agreed to support carers with travel costs for a six month period.
“As far as South Staffordshire and Shropshire Healthcare is aware, that service was used three times to either support carers visiting, or support patients to go home.
We recognise that some people do need to travel further, however this means they are receiving specialist, high quality and safe care in units with facilities which best meet the needs of people with mental health problems.
“While the provision from the commissioners is now at an end, South Staffordshire and Shropshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust is committed to ensuring service users and carers have the best possible experience of care at the trust and will help to explore options for benefits and other financial support.
“We will look into the case raised by Burton’s MP Andre Griffiths and respond appropriately.”