Proposals to make local mental health services better, so that more people are able to stay at home, rather than needing to go into hospital for care and treatment, have got the go ahead from local NHS boards.
During a recent public consultation the NHS in East Sussex asked for people’s views on proposals to improve the range and performance of community mental health services.
People were also asked what they thought about introducing standards to make sure these improvements are measured and then to start reducing the number of mental health inpatient beds.
Reducing the number of beds, in a safe and gradual way, will be possible as fewer people will need to be admitted to hospital thanks to improved services in the community.
The opinions of services users, carers, mental health groups and others with an interest in mental health helped to produce a recommendation for change which was accepted by the boards of NHS East Sussex Downs and Weald and NHS Hastings and Rother at their meeting on 29th July 2010.
The planned changes will see:
- the introduction of measures for tracking and checking that community services have improved so that in-patient beds can be safely removed in a gradual way.
- the setting up of a proposed ‘Stakeholder Reference Group’, which will include service users, to follow and check the improvements to community services.
- the reduction of the total number of inpatient mental health beds in East Sussex from 122 to 92. This will involve the gradual closure of 20 beds on Bodiam ward at the Department of Psychiatry, Eastbourne District General Hospital, and the reduction in bed numbers from 33 to 23 at the Woodlands Centre for Acute Care at the Conquest Hospital Hastings.
It is important to stress that no changes to bed numbers will be made until suitable community services are in place to help and support people close to where they live.
Inpatient beds for people with dementia in East Sussex are not affected by these changes
Martin Packwood, Mental Health Commissioning Manager for East Sussex, says:
“People who use mental health services say that they want to receive more treatment and care at home, and in the community if possible, rather than in hospital beds.
Clinicians (doctors, nurses and other health professionals) also believe that providing more and better mental health services outside of hospital helps people to recover quicker and stay healthier.
Community mental health services have benefited from significant investment in recent years and are continuing to develop.
The changes we are planning will enable even more people to stay well, as well as cope successfully with relapses, without needing to go into hospital.”
Mike Wood, Chief Executive of NHS East Sussex Downs and Weald and NHS Hastings and Rother, adds:
“I would like to thank all those who have helped shape these plans for the future by having their say during the consultation.
We look forward to continuing to work with everyone as we improve mental health services for local people, getting the right balance between hospital based care and services in the community, so that we can support people in their recovery and support them to maintain mental well being.”
Before and during the formal public consultation views were canvassed from a large number of service users, carers, members of the public, staff, GPs, primary care staff, voluntary sector partners, community groups, East Sussex County Council, the Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee, and Members of Parliament.
The responses received during the public consultation revealed that there is strong support for improvements in community services.
And, as long as these improvements are measured, looked at closely on a regular basis, and made a reality, this would mean that people would not be against reducing the overall numbers of beds, in a safe and gradual way.