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Council highlights concerns over NHS plans that could leave Westminster without acute mental health beds in the city

Consultation poster

NHS plans that could leave no beds for acute mental health patients in Westminster have been highlighted by Westminster City Council.

An NHS consultation, which has been extended to February 2024, has set out a range of options for the future of acute mental health provision in the area. This includes a proposal to cut acute mental health bed provision from 51 to zero. This potentially risks patients with severe mental health issues having to travel miles for residential care. In fact, the 51 acute mental health beds at the Gordon Hospital have not been available since the temporary closure of that facility in March 2020.

The consultation comes as demand for acute mental health beds is soaring across Westminster - with 777 people in Westminster referred in 2022/23, 103 more than year before.

Councillor Nafsika Butler-Thalassis, Westminster City Council’s Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care, Public Health and Voluntary Sector, calls on the NHS to keep acute mental beds in the local community.

She says:

Westminster is an area with one of the highest rates of mental health crisis in the country, and it defies common sense that we may end up with no local acute beds for a resident population of more than 200,000.

Nobody disputes that community care is valuable, but it is unacceptable to pursue this route at the expense of acute beds.  The reality is that people with fragile mental health who need a bed could be forced to travel long distances to get one. I urge local people to make their views known in the consultation and for NHS managers to think hard about the best services for local people.

We need to keep acute mental health beds alongside effective community support and intervention. For treatment to be effective and for people to get better, they need the support of their family, friends and local networks. We think that works best by having the appropriate amount of acute mental health beds in the city.

The Council’s preference for option 1 in the NHS consultation is based on choosing the option that best meets the needs of our residents under the current situation. Option 1 would reopen the 51 beds at Gordon Hospital in South Westminster. However, NWL ICB and CNWL have warned that this option may require some of the community and crisis services that have been established since March 2020 to be scaled back or discontinued. The Council does not agree with this and believes that the North West London Integrated Care Board (NWL ICB) and Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust (CNWL) should maintain all the existing services in order to adequately meet the needs of increasing demands for mental health services. Therefore, throughout this consultation process, the council will keep advocating strongly for this position in all our interactions.

Health Watch, the independent patient watchdog supports the Council’s preferred option in the NHS consultation. They have just released a report that shows the community views on how closing the acute mental health services at the Gordon Hospital has affected them. Community perspectives on the impact of the closure of acute mental health services at the Gordon Hospital

The report illustrates a significant impact on residents in both Westminster and neighbouring Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and it calls for acute mental health inpatient beds to be reinstated in Westminster.

Westminster mental health patients describe themselves in the report as feeling like “parcels” being sent from hospital to hospital for treatment.

One patient said:

When there are long waiting times with mental health patients it is a bit like cancer; it gets worse. This means the A&E are filled up, the police are under stress, the crisis levels increase and there are no beds for patients to use in Westminster.”

Read our dedicated webpage with more information on the consultation.

The NHS’s consultation is open until the 16 February 2024.

Published: 15 November 2023