Concerns for Kent mentally ill if care centre closes
FEARS have been raised over the future of services for people with mental health issues in Sevenoaks. It has emerged that the St John’s Community Health Care Centre, on St John’s Road, could be closed as part of a redesign of local healthcare, intended to lessen the stigma of having a mental illness.
John Hughes, NHS director of mental health for West Kent, said that under the plans the existing users could be seen in doctors’ surgeries or other NHS buildings instead of the clinic.
But the announcement has prompted fears from the Sevenoaks branch of Rethink, which supports the carers of people with severe mental health illnesses.
The organisation’s voluntary co-ordinator Carole Wright said: “The whole thing is causing a lot of concern for those that use the practices.
“There is such a lot of ambiguity about it.”
She said she was concerned about how mental health patients could all be treated within Sevenoaks doctors’ surgeries and whether it would be necessary for each patient to have to be treated in a variety of places, as opposed to one centre.
She added her main concern was whether mental health patients would continue to be seen by the teams that know them and were aware of their history.
Fellow Rethink member Fhiona Whiting (crrt), of Shoreham Lane, believed the measure was a cost-cutting exercise.
She said: “The PCT have to decide whether to put money into cancer care, heart care, or other medical causes. Mental health is always the last one.
“The clinic is a really useful thing. It would be terrible if it got lost.”
Rethink member Juliet Alchin said it was more important for people to change their attitude to mental health rather than abolishing a clinic.
But Mr Hughes said: “We are currently redesigning our community services with the aim of providing better access to services for people in less stigmatising settings, with the ultimate aim of facilitating recovery and social inclusion.”
He added: “If changes to the current community mental health centres are necessary, clients will still be able to see mental health staff locally.”
He added there were no plans to reduce the level of mental health service provision in Sevenoaks.
A final decision has yet to be taken by the Kent and Medway NHS and Social Care Partnership Trust and no time frame has yet been set.
Responding to criticisms of cost-cutting, NHS West Kent mental health commissioner Jason Jongali said £60million was allocated to adult mental health services in West Kent each year.
He added the organisation, which allocates funding to different health services in the area, was committed to meeting the healthcare needs of local people. There were no plans to reduce the town’s mental health services.