Angry protestors stage demonstration over plans to close mental health ward at Royal Bolton Hospital
TRADE union members joined mental health campaigners to voice their anger at the possible closure of a mental health ward at the Royal Bolton Hospital.
More than 30 people gathered outside the hospital’s Minerva Street entrance in protest after Greater Manchester West Mental Health Trust announced the ward could be closed, along with another unit in Salford.
Plans have also been outlined to move elderly care wards from the Royal Bolton to the Woodlands Hospital in Little Hulton.
The trust has insisted that at present these are just proposals but protesters said they were “really concerned” about the potential impact on services.
James Gold, an auxiliary nurse and Unison branch secretary, said: “One thing I’m worried about is older patients with dementia being cared for out of Bolton. At the moment our staff work really closely with relatives and it would be difficult for that to continue if the ward closes.”
The trust has assured people the proposals have nothing to do with budget cuts and are instead about investing in “community based services”.
Gill Green, director of nursing and operations for the trust, said: “I fully understand that, in this climate, any suggestion of change immediately sets alarm bells ringing that we are trying to cut services to save money.
“I want to again reassure the public that this is not an example of this. The reasons behind this proposal is to see how we can deliver mental health services in the best way possible across Bolton, Salford and Trafford. “We want to help people by investing in community based services so that people only go into hospital when absolutely necessary and for as short a time as possible.”
But Susan Howarth, public governor for Bolton at the trust, who joined the protest, said: “I have not been provided with a convincing case that closing adult mental health beds in Bolton and replacing them with community treatment will increase the quality of care adult patients will receive.
“I would need to be assured, before any beds are closed, that such a change to services is working well elsewhere in England.”
The protest also voiced general concerns about cutbacks in the NHS.
Harry Hanley, secretary of Staff Side at the hospital, which rep-resents employees, said: “The next 12 months is critical for the NHS — and if people care about this health service they need to come out with us and fight for it.”
l The protest was held amid fears over the state of the mental health service nationally.
An investigation by BBC News and Community Care magazine revealed that more than 1,500 mental health beds have closed in recent years and Dr Martin Baggaley, medical director of the South London and Maudsley NHS Trust has spoken out, claiming that the service is in crisis and is unsafe.
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