Axe Will Fall On Mental Health Unit

Health bosses are meeting on Friday to agree the closure of the six remaining in-patient beds at Bracken House, Chard’s mental health unit. Somerset Partnership NHS and Social Care Trust, which operates the county’s mental health services, says the move is needed to avoid an overspend of £1m by the end of the financial year. The trust wants to close the beds by October but the move has been greeted with anger by town leaders. Chard Mayor John Malcolm said: “Every time they close a bed it means people have to go to Taunton or Yeovil. I recently took somebody who was having a nervous breakdown to Yeovil and the wait to actually see a doctor was from 2pm to 9.30pm.”

Mr Malcolm said there was an established need for inpatient beds in Chard. “Why, when 25% of the population are going to have a mental health problem at some time in their lives are they getting rid of beds?” he said.

“It’s very sad for the staff who have built up that place. I hope when the financial problems are sorted out that the beds can be restored.”

Chard county councillor Jill Shortland said: “This is just the final straw for Chard. It is appalling and disgraceful. Why are they overspent? Is it bad management? Are they going to use the saving just to pay off their overdraft or are they going to use it to improve day facilities and community care?”

Somerset Partnership NHS and Social Care Trust says the move is not just about money and insists Bracken House is not closing. Spokesman Paul Courtney said: “Day services will continue and be developed in Bracken House.”

Mr Courtney said inpatient beds are needed only by those suffering severe episodes of mental illness and that most patients benefit from increased community care. “Once you take somebody who is not well out of an environment they are familiar with they become less comfortable,” he said.

“Just two years ago the trust had an overspend of £1.8million and had to make changes. It is important to achieve financial balance because it means you are able to have stability and continuity of care,” he added.