Mental health service in Manchester plunged into crisis as NHS trust axed and vital services cut
Wednesday 28 Th October, 2015
By: Jennifer Williams Political, Local government, Trade Unions
Services for people with sexual problems and chronic fatigue among those scrapped
Manchester’s mental health trust is to be axed as it faces a catastrophic £7m funding black hole.
A new round of £1.5m worth of cuts will hit more than 650 patients, sparking a warning that people could be driven to suicide.
Manchester Health and Social Care Trust’s finances are now so bad that the trust is to be abolished. NHS bosses will decide in the coming days what to replace it with.
Support for people with chronic fatigue, affective disorders and sexual problems will all go in the latest cuts. Community therapy through gardening and carpentry, which many patients say they rely on to stay off medication, is also being axed.
The trust has had to make £7m worth of cuts. It says it has already made £3m in savings, but will now have to find another £4m, including the latest cuts.
It blames a range of factors including £2m in redundancy costs due to council cuts, high spending on private beds due to shortages in NHS spaces, and cuts to NHS funding.
A report going before councillors on Thursday says the proposals ‘have not been taken lightly’.
Alan Hartman, 67, from Crumpsall, is schizo-affective and said patients were ‘extremely frightened’, adding the move would lead to suicides.
“I don’t want to be locked up again,” he added.
Paul Reed, of Manchester Users Network, which represents mental health patients, said: “I’ve never known a response like it from patients and parents of patients, who say these services are their lifeline. To lose this will mean they end up in hospital. It’s appalling.”
Around one in four Mancunians suffer from some kind of mental illness – with the city facing some of the longest waiting times in the country.
The trust has suffered bad headlines over its finances and care for years. Last month the health watchdog raised patient safety concerns, while in December it was named one of five trusts most likely to be putting people at risk.
It is unclear what will happen after it is wound up, but it is likely to be merged with a neighbouring trust.
Manchester Central MP Lucy Powell has written to the city’s clinical commissioners and said she would raise the crisis in parliament,
She added: “These cuts to early intervention mental health services are extremely concerning and will likely prove to be a false economy in the long run.”
‘I don’t want to be locked up again… I’ve seen so many people commit suicide’
A mental health patient has described his terror at planned cuts to services – warning it could ultimately drive vulnerable people to suicide.
Alan Hartman, 67, said he was frightened he would be ‘locked up’ in hospital after Manchester Mental Health and Social Care Trust outlined plans to axe a wave of therapy-based services.
Such care is based around practical skills such as gardening and woodwork and helps people socialise while being overseen by professionals.
Alan said that without it patients feared they would simply be ‘doped up’ instead.
Alan, from Crumpsall, is schizo-affective and sometimes hears voices. He currently lives independently in his own flat, but relies on therapeutic services – many of which have already been axed.
“I used to go to art therapy years ago and all that’s been cut,” he said.
“I’ve lost my back-up worker, so if my care coordinator is off sick I’m left to my own devices.
“I’m scared that I will be going back into hospital. I don’t want to be locked up again.
“I don’t want to be doped up on medication. I’m afraid. I’ve seen so many people commit suicide with overdoses.”
Of those being cut back, he said the ‘green wellbeing’ service – which uses horticulture to help patients – is the one he uses directly.
“I can speak up for myself, but there are those who can’t speak up for themselves.
“If that shuts they’ll have nowhere to go. But it’s a domino effect. I’m seeing less of the care coordinator – and now they’ll have even less time for me.
“We are very frightened that the replacement of those services will be giving more drugs and medication.
“There will be more people getting sick and more people committing suicide. Suicides are already going up. It’s very, very dangerous.”
Paul Reed, of the Manchester Users Network, said one reason occupational-type therapies are so important is that patients are continuously seen by staff while there.
He said he had never had such a response from patients over any issue.
“If this is approved, it is going to be terrible for people.”
‘It’s been a difficult decision’ – but now we need to find a long-term solution
A spokesman for Manchester Health and Social Care Trust said it had already made a range of savings to relieve financial pressures.
“However, it has not been possible to achieve the expected level of savings without affecting some service areas in the form of service retractions,” he said.
“The proposals put forward are so that we can make best use of the resources available to us and to continue to provide high quality services for those people who are most in need and most at risk.
“Most service users affected by the changes will remain in the system as they are already receiving care from another part of our service. Through any implementation, mitigating actions will be taken wherever possible to minimise the impact upon all service users affected through these proposals.”
It had been a ‘difficult decision’, he added.
A spokesman for the three Manchester clinical commission groups said they were working with the trust and NHS chiefs ‘to identify a longer term plan which will provide a more resilient service in the future’. An extra £7m had been invested in the last two years, it added.