Orchards care unit’s new role

The Orchards, on Princess Close. (1209066)
The Orchards, on Princess Close. (1209066)

In-patient mental health services are set to return to a Ripon care unit more than six years after its beds were closed.

The Orchards care unit, on Princess Close, was closed as an in-patient and respite care facility for the elderly mentally ill by health bosses in October 2006 – but now Harrogate Borough Council planners have given it the green light to become a Community Mental Health Team hub.

The new centre will include improved accommodation for its rehabilitation in-patient services and the building of seven single storey extensions.

A spokesman for the Tees, Esk and Wear Valley NHS Foundation Trust, which is responsible for the unit, told the Gazette: “One-in-four of us will have a mental health problem at some point in our lives and rehabilitation services are an important part of the care we provide to people who are recovering from mental ill health.”

Since the closure of the respite care facilities, the unit has been used as a day care community service which will stay in place under the new proposals.

Many of the patients housed at The Orchards were transferred to Knaresborough’s Alexander House – which provides inpatient and respite care for people suffering with dementia – following the closure but a health shake-up of dementia services in the district is set to see Alexander House lose its mental health facilities and half of its beds, meaning carers will be put under extra pressure and 
patients could foot respite bills.

Plans to close the Knaresborough NHS service were met with outrage from Ripon councillors at a health trust consultation held in the city late last year, with Ripon city Coun Pauline McHardy saying, “carers are being abused”.

Despite the return of a mental health respite unit to Ripon, the proposals have angered some residents living nearby the site towards the north of the city.

One homeowner wrote on the Harrogate Borough Council planning website: “I can’t believe I have just been told by the street grapevine that you are building a mental home so close to so many people and children!

“I have a boy who’s five and I don’t want any mental people to come into any possible contact with him. Also because I own my home I think this would clearly lower my house value which is obviously annoying.”

Another homeowner said: “I have two children who walk past this proposed site daily and believe this proposal could affect their safety as mental health is clearly an issue that you can never guarantee is not going to affect children.”

But NHS bosses have moved to assure residents they will give local people the opportunity to meet them and discuss the plans after the school summer holidays have finished “so as many people as possible are able to come along”.

The NHS Foundation Trust spokesman said: “It will hopefully allay their concerns.”

And chairman of North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) and Ripon city Coun Bernard Bateman welcomed the news, saying it contributed to the city’s Healthy Ripon initiative.

“It’s about caring for older people and it’s all part of caring for the wider community in all sorts of ways, and that’s what is important. There were a lot of complaints about The Orchards closing in the first place, and I have received no complaints this time. It is a positive thing.”