MENTAL health campaigners and staff have criticised plans to close 50 mental health beds at the Royal Bolton Hospital.
Counsellors and ambassadors at Bolton’s Mental Health Independent Support Team (MHIST) say they are concerned for the “safety and welfare” of patients — should proposals go ahead.
Proposals from Greater Manchester West Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust (GMW) will see three wards at the hospital replaced with extra beds at Woodlands Hospital in Little Hulton.
The trust wants fewer people to be admitted to mental health wards and instead receive care in their homes.
The shake-up will mean home care can be provided seven days per week in Bolton rather than five.
Yet critics are worried about the reduced bed capacity, staffing levels in the new community service and the risk of patients being sent to other parts of the UK for hospital care.
Melvin Bradley, manager of MHIST, has also criticised the consultation process itself.
He said: “It has been billed as a consultation but it seems there is no other option available and the decision has been made.
“It’s like there’s a ‘plan A’ but no ‘plan B’.
“Even if people don’t want it, it seems like staying as we are is not an option.”
Andrew Jones, an independent mental health advocate at MHIST, added: “If they are going to do this care in the community, why don’t they start the new service before the wards close? It needs to be up and running first.
“Also, are they recruiting new teams to deliver this service?
“If there’s not enough beds in Bolton or Salford, then where are they going to ship these patients off to? Some are already sent as far as Darlington and Scotland. This is only going to get worse when more than half of beds are not available.”
Yet the NHS Bolton Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), the statutory body set to make the final decision on the changes, says it has received a lot of positive feedback on the proposals.
The 15-bed Oak Ward at the Royal Bolton and the 20-bed elderly Linden Ward will shut by October, while Hazelwood Ward, which has 15 beds for older people, will close by October next year.
Dr Martyn Fletcher, clinical lead for mental health at the CCG, said: “I believe this investment in mental health care will respond to long held concerns about the responsiveness of our current services when a patient in a crisis situation. As a GP, I know that many patients have not been able to receive the support they need to remain in their own homes and avoid a hospital admission.
“These plans would give a massive boost to community based care, whilst still retaining some mental health beds for those who need them.”