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Mental health bed closures need to be monitored

Monday 18th June 2012 (Andrew Griffiths)

A ‘RIGOROUS, accountable and transparent’ process must be in place before NHS chiefs can scrap ‘vital’ mental health beds such as those in Burton, the town’s MP has told Parliament.

Andrew Griffiths urged the Government to consider how it could provide these reassurances by taking advantage of a debate on mental health to reflect on the battle to save the Margaret Stanhope Centre.

“I urge the Minister (Paul Burstow) to think long and hard about how we can bring rigour into such decisions,” he said.

“Mental health issues can affect any family, rich or poor, and are no respecter of intelligence, upbringing or anything like that.

“It is essential there is a rigorous, accountable and transparent process before PCTs (primary care trusts) are able to decide to do away with these vital beds.

“I urge the minister to consider how the Government can provide those reassurances.”

Mr Griffiths told MPs he had assumed decisions such as the one taken by South Staffordshire PCT to close the Margaret Stanhope ‘would be taken based on facts and evidence, and that there would be hard facts to enable the PCT’s claims to stack up’.

“I assumed that its claims about the provision that was going to replace the Mar- garet Stanhope would be demonstrable,” he said.

“However, the reality was a mind-blowing situation in which the inability of the PCT to make any of its claims stack up throughout the process became apparent.”

Mr Griffiths said he was ‘disappointed, but not surprised’ the PCT dismissed the Mail’s 8,200-signature petition to save the ‘much-loved facility’ on the grounds it ‘did not deal absolutely to the letter with all the options’ in a four-month public consultation.

The MP said the PCT argued that a pilot scheme showed it could reduce inpatient care by a third — a claim later disproved when campaigners obtained bed occupancy figures which largely showed static or increasing use.

Health chiefs also claimed ‘an independent report by Staffordshire University’ showed closing the centre would have no impact — only for campaigners to discover the ‘professor’ who wrote it was employed by the PCT, the MP said.

Mr Griffiths claimed the PCT also ‘fixed’ figures for mental health bed numbers after a previous report showed it had ‘among the lowest provision in the country’.

He said the ‘most worrying thing’ was that during the meeting to decide the Margaret Stanhope’s fate, lay members of the PCT panel ‘were asking basic questions and clearly did not have any of the information that was necessary to make such an important decision’.

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