MPs Back Bid To Keep Mental Health Centre

The South London Press campaign calling for the Maudsley Hospital emergency clinic to be saved this week has won the backing of a leading mental health charity and MPs. Marjorie Wallace,the chief executive of Sane,welcomed the campaign to save the service that can be a matter of life and death for people in mental crisis. MPs Simon Hughes and Harriet Harman have also pledged to take up the campaign at the highest level. They were among a group of MPs who met Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt this week to try to save the clinic.

Speaking to the South London Press, Mrs Wallace said: “The closure of this clinic would be a tragedy and lives lost unnecessarily. For 20 years, Sane has campaigned to keep open places like this clinic where people can turn for help when in crisis.”

MP for Camberwell and Peckham Harriet Harman and MP for North Southwark and Bermondsey Simon Hughes also gave the campaign their support.

The South London and Maudsley Trust has said that patients having an acute mental crisis can go to accident and emergency for help if the clinic closes, but both MPs said that is not enough.

Ms Harman said: “Of course, when someone suffering an acute mental health crisis of mental illness goes to A&E at King’s they need to be sure of getting a very good service. That is no reason to close the Maudsley clinic which, over the years, has been a lifeline for people facing a crisis and a reassurance for those with mental illness.”

Mr Hughes was one of a group of protesters who marched in Brixton against the closures last month. He said: “We are absolutely clear there needs to be a 24-hour service and just saying that patients can go to accident and emergency is not enough.”

The clinic is paid for by the South London and Maudsley Trust, which gets a grant from the Department of Health.

Budget cuts mean the trust has to reduce costs and one of the first casualties is the 24-hour emergency clinic.

So controversial was the decision that in August it was reviewed by 10 councillors making up Lambeth and Southwark’s health scrutiny committee and they agreed unanimously to refer it to Ms Hewitt in August.

The trust is standing its ground in the face of the campaign. A spokesman told the South London Press this week: “Nothing has changed. We are waiting for the decision from the secretary of state, but we would like to get across all the work we are doing trying to keep people healthy and at home.”