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Acute mental health provision

Published 22 September 2023:

At a Full Council meeting held on 20th September, all councillors backed a motion setting out concerns regarding the loss of acute mental health beds and the consequences this has had for residents and staff in the city.

Councillors from both political groups called on the NHS to reopen acute mental health beds in South Westminster to ensure that the needs of local people are met. They highlighted the importance of community mental health services but were clear that they shouldn’t be funded at the expense of acute hospital beds, and that both types of services are needed to support people with different needs and at different stages of their patient journey. They agreed that this is the view they will express when the NHS launches a formal consultation on changes to local health services in the autumn.

In the motion, it was said that the loss of Westminster’s 51 acute mental health beds since the temporary closure of the Gordon Hospital in Pimlico was having an impact. This includes patients having to wait much longer to access an acute bed, often in unsuitable environments such as Accident and Emergency departments in hospitals. It was said that when an acute mental health bed is finally found, it is outside Westminster, and sometimes very far from the city, which contributes to the isolation of mental health patients from their families and communities. It was also said that the closure of this local acute provision has had a particular impact on communities least able to access alternative support.

The motion also highlighted that there’s no indication that the need for acute mental health beds is reducing. The data shows that in 2022/23 staff assessed 1070 people, 49 people more than in 2021/22. Of those 1070 people, 777 were referred for acute hospital care, which is 103 more people than in 2021/22.

Councillors also agreed that the closure of the Gordon has put immense pressure on other parts of the system. For example, St Charles, the acute mental health hospital in Kensington & Chelsea is finding that their patients are having to move out of borough to make way for Westminster patients. St Mary’s hospital is having to host several mental health patients at a time for up to 24 hours in beds that are needed for patients who are physically ill. The Metropolitan Police is finding that their resources are tied up in escorting mental health patients in A&E for up to 24 hours at a time.

For the full wording of the Council Motion read here.

Update, 29 September 2023:

Councillors have received an update from an independent health expert, as part of a session scrutinising NHS plans for a forthcoming consultation about the future of acute mental health services in Westminster.

The update was given by Professor Jill Manthorpe at a meeting of the Children, Adults, Public Health and Voluntary Sector Policy and Scrutiny Committee. That session also heard from representatives of NHS services about their plans for their forthcoming public consultation, including looking at the future of the Gordon Hospital in Pimlico which has been “temporarily closed” since 2020.

Professor Manthorpe, who has been commissioned by Westminster and neighbouring Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea councils to look at the issues, gave a verbal update to the committee. She said that her independent review would help to inform responses to the forthcoming consultation and added that she was also “charting the process” from the temporary closure to a current “big discussion” about a permanent proposal.

She noted that Westminster has already “lost a lot of provision locally, not just the Gordon Hospital and that “there is recognition that everywhere needs in-patient beds”. She also said that the Gordon was “very accessible for everyone”, including patients, carers, family and staff and that it “operated more as a community hub”.

Councillors on the committee also noted the cross-party motion approved at the latest Full Council meeting about the need for acute mental health beds in south Westminster, as well as raising concerns about the impact on staff and also that Westminster residents are not being seen in the city and are having to travel out of the borough. Moving forward, the committee heard that a joint scrutiny committee was being established with the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, the details of which are currently being worked out.

  • The details of the scrutiny report can be found here.
  • The details of the council’s motion on the Gordon Hospital can be found here.

Published: 28 September 2023