Chichester mental health patients ‘fear for the future’ after 'scary' relocation proposals

Two friends – from Ford and Bognor – who have received support from a mental health ward in Chichester have condemned proposals to relocate patients ‘miles away from home’.

Thursday, 5th September 2019, 11:40 am
Tracey Horne. Photo: Kate Shemilt

Beds currently based at wards in Chichester could be moved to Worthing and Crawley if the go ahead is given to plans, which form part of a review by the county’s mental health trust and clinical commissioning groups.

In a joint statement in February, Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust and West Sussex Clinical Commissioning Groups said they were considering ways to improve mental health services for adults and older people in West Sussex. As part of that work, the county must also comply with national guidance on eliminating mixed sex wards. Read more here

The review includes two wards at the Harold Kidd Unit and Oaklands Ward, both in Chichester, one ward at Horsham Hospital, three wards at Langley Green Hospital, Crawley, three wards at Meadowfield Hospital and one ward at The Burrowes – both at the Swandean site in Worthing.

'I fear for the future'

Ford resident Tracey Horne, 50, who has recently been discharged from the mixed sex Oaklands ward in Graylingwell, said: “I was treated at the ward for a while and it helped me survive when I didn’t want to live.

“There was not a problem with it at all. The thought of being sent somewhere where no one could see me is scary. You are losing the continuity with your GP and local community service."

Tracey is now fearing what repercussions there might be if patients are moved ‘miles away from home’.

“There are a lot of young people who need support, they are so vulnerable,” she said.

“If they don’t get that continuity of support it can have a huge impact on their mental health. Being close to home and having regular support helped me. The team there were able to take me home and make me feel safe.

“They haven’t thought about that for people if they are moved miles away. It would disorientate people and make the situation worse when the experience is already traumatic. It would be terrible and I fear for the future.”

'If I was told I was going to be sent to Crawley, I would have ended my life'

Tracey said the plans are a 'disaster waiting to happen' and 'haven't been thoroughly thought through'.

She added: "Oaklands saved my life. The support enabled me to come out the other side smiling and wanting to live. Now I can continue my life but I don't know what would have happened if I was transported miles away.

"Family members can't always travel until the evening and I don't think they would extend the visiting hours. It just won't work.

"If I was told I was going to be sent to Crawley, I would have ended my life."

'I would avoid support all together'

Friend and fellow Oaklands ward patient Lauren Dougan, 31, who lives in Bognor, said she would 'avoid support all together' if she was to be relocated.

She said: "Oaklands has helped me every time I have been there, which is two or three times, although, at one stage, I did have to go all the way to Hastings. It was too far away and it did not allow me to get to places with my [three] children.

"Oaklands is one of the good hospitals and if they start tampering with it, it just won't be the same."

Lauren said moving women away from wards near their homes 'wouldn't be fair at all'.

"It is fine as it is with a mixture of males and females," she said.

"If the females were to be moved elsewhere, it wouldn't be fair at all.

"It would put me off going to A&E. The process is so stressful. I would avoid support all together.

"It would be so detrimental. It [Oaklands] needs to stay as it is. It saved people's lives — at least three in the last couple of months."

Sussex Partnership Trust chief executive Sam Allen stressed that no final decisions have been made and encouraged everyone to take part in the consultation, which ends on October 11.

Anyone affected by this article, or who needs support, can speak to the Samaritans – free and at any time – by calling 116 123. For more information about the Samaritans, visit www.samaritans.org.

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