Serious gap in mental health services

VULNERABLE adults have been left with a gap in their support for more than a year after a mental health day care unit in Harrogate failed to re-open from temporary closure.

The Hawthorn Day Unit at Harrogate District Hospital was closed by North Yorkshire and York Primary Care Trust (NYY PCT) more than 12 months ago because of a staffing shortage, despite appeals from service users and the town’s MP.

One year on, the temporary closure remains, leaving a major gap in the town’s mental health services.

Harrogate and Knaresborough MP Andrew Jones campaigned against the closure and has been pushing for the the unit to be re-opened.

He said: “The loss of the Hawthorn Day Unit was a real blow to mental health services in Harrogate.

“I have met with former users of the unit. I know just how much they valued the service it offers. I know too that it provides much needed respite for carers.”

When it first closed, services were replaced by home visits as well as referrals to community-based services like Harrogate MIND, the Acorn Centre and the Orb, a community-based creative centre which supports vulnerable adults.

One former Hawthorn user, Mick Robinson, 54, from Park House Court in Harrogate, said: “It was a really backwards step to shut a unit like that and it makes me worry about the people that it will leave vulnerable.”

Another man, who asked to remain nameless, spoke to the Advertiser after the unit closed last year, saying that his wife had gone from receiving support several days a week in the unit to half an hour a week in Ripon and that she was often seen by different people.

He said: “On the bad days, which are becoming more and more frequent, she hasn’t been able to get out of bed and has just spent the whole time crying and saying that there’s nothing for her and that the days are too long and frightening.

“That was where Hawthorn helped.”

Speaking this week, he said he had become almost a full time carer for his wife and is feeling the gap in support more acutely than ever.

The Orb’s manager and founder, Mark Flood, said: “I am concerned that people who are quite acutely ill are finding themselves in places where, with all the best will in the world, staff aren’t trained to work with people with acute mental illnesses.

“It’s important that people are able to choose to get support where clinicians are present.”

He added: “We are a little bit too popular at the moment. More people get referred than we get paid for and we would rather accept that and just not get paid for it than turn people away.”

In January, the PCT awarded a contract to Tees, Esk and Wear Valley NHS Foundation Trust (TEWV) to provide mental health services to Harrogate.

A spokesman for TEWV said: “We took over mental health services in Harrogate at the beginning of June.

“It is important in these early months that we spend some time getting to know the services and the needs of the local population before decisions about the future shape and provision of services are made.”

Mr Flood said he had had no contact from the trust but hoped that organisations like his would be involved in any discussions about local mental health needs.

A spokesman for the PCT said the closure was a response to a staff shortage after the introduction of a recruitment freeze and controls on the use of bank staff and they were unable to resolve it because the service was part of a legal tender process.

He said: “We are currently working with Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust on the future of the Hawthorn Day Unit.”

Mr Jones welcomed TEWV’s promise of a review of mental health services in the area but added that he would be pressing for a decision over the unit.

Mr Jones said: “I will be contacting them asking them to bring forward the review of the unit to the earliest possible date and to reiterate my support for re-opening the Hawthorn Day Unit.”

l Have you, or has anyone close to you, been affected by the closure? Contact us by emailing or writing to the address on Page 6.