Mental health reorganisation to Bedford an ‘outrage’

Plans to close and transfer inpatient mental health facilities from Houghton Regis and Luton to Bedford “will tear families apart and leave those in crisis to suffer in silence”, it has been claimed.

A new £60m mental health building at Shires House in Bedford would almost certainly lead to three premises in south Bedfordshire being shut down.

Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes Clinical Commissioning Group and East London NHS Foundation Trust (ELFT) are committed to developing state-of-the-art mental health inpatient services in the county.

The planned investment is likely to result in the closure of Townsend Court in Houghton Regis, and Oakley Court and Calnwood Court in Luton.

It has been described as “a once in a generation opportunity for the people of Central Bedfordshire and Bedford borough” by ELFT medical director Dr Dudley Manns.

But the move “will devastate the local support available”, according to South West Bedfordshire’s Labour Party’s disability officer Natashya Becks. 

“It’s an outrage that ELFT is trying to remove our local mental health facilities from those with the most severe problems,” she said.

“These people are more than just numbers on report sheets. They’re our friends, our family, our community, who’ll be left hanging by a thread.

“It will separate us from our loved ones at the time they need us most. People will be moved miles away to suffer alone in hospital units.

“So many more of us will be isolated and suffering in silence with no local or on the doorstep support to turn to. The need to access the right support when in crisis is life-saving.

“How’s it fair to relocate mental health facilities to one community, but remove them from another?” she asked.

“There must be equality. Every mind matters. Every community’s well-being matters. Closing our facilities will cause so much unjustified heartbreak for so many people.

“The mental health of those in the most severe crisis is on the line here,” she warned.

“This project must only add to, not replace, our mental health provision. Our local inpatient services must be protected.”

Residents across the area have labelled the threatened closure of local mental health facilities “catastrophic”, she added.

“If it goes ahead this year, the stripping back of local services threatens to only widen health inequality and deprive the most in need residents in south Bedfordshire of accessible and importantly local inpatient support.

“The prospect of a new facility for well-being is marvellous and one I’m sure everyone welcomes.

“But to shut them down in more deprived areas in a replacement programme isn’t the way forward to achieve the mental health needs of all of our community.

“We can only hope ELFT will take this into consideration in its forthcoming public consultation.

“Comprehensive engagement with all residents surrounding accessibility, the suitability of Bedford town, and real need across the county is vital.”

ELFT currently provides 59 beds for adults with mental health problems in the county.

Its director of integrated care Richard Fradgley described the site in Bedford as “complex”, following a recent fire.

“We’ve started detailed work on demand and capacity,” he told Central Bedfordshire Council’s social care, health and housing overview and scrutiny committee in January.