NHS Berkshire chiefs defend mental health ward move

Published: 26 Jan 2012 14:00

BOSSES at NHS Berkshire have defended the controversial decision to all mental health facilities to one central unit in Reading.

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The move to close mental health wards at Wexham Park Hospital in Slough, St. Mark's Hospital in Maidenhead and Heatherwood Hospital in Ascot was taken at the NHS Berkshire Primary Care Trust (PCT) Cluster Board meeting on Tuesday, January 24.

Mental health patients who need to be admitted to hospital will now go to a specialist unit at Prospect Park in Reading but one condition of the move was that transport facilities were in place and an improvement in community support.

Charles Waddicor, chief executive of NHS Berkshire, says that this option received support from all clinical groups and that as long as the conditions are in place .

He said: "Local specialist clinicians and the clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) led by local GPs are unanimous in their view that this will provide the best outcomes for patients.

"The overwhelming majority of patients can be treated and supported in their own homes. Hospital treatment is increasingly seen as specialist short-term care provided in purpose-built centres of excellence which promote dignity and patient safety and comply with national guidelines and policy.

"This is not the case with small, isolated 'stand-alone' units like Charles Ward, Maidenhead, and the mental health wards at Heatherwood and Wexham Park hospitals - despite the good work done by staff.

"The conditions of this provide important safeguards about the concerns expressed - particularly flexible transport support through a £100,000 ringfenced annual budget - which would need to be in place prior to transfer of services.

"The Board's decision allows community services to be protected and enhanced.These services help to reduce the need for hospital admission. The measures around transport and community provision will be put in place before the transfer of beds gets under way."

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