Health bosses want to close mental health services at Queen Mary’s Hospital, which treats 500 patients a year, and reduce inpatient beds across south-west London by 10 per cent.
A review, set to transform mental health services across the region, proposes to axe services at the Roehampton hospital and centralise the region’s mental health services at Springfield University Hospital, Tooting, and Tolworth Hospital, Kingston.
Springfield Hospital in Tooting
Health bosses predict that by investing in these two hospitals, and closing services at Queen Mary’s, they could save £25.87m in 50 years, than if they maintained the current three hospitals.
This is despite recent warnings from the British Medical Association (BMA) that mental health patients were being put at risk by cuts. Earlier this year six mental health organisations also warned that NHS mental health cuts were putting lives at risk.
Tolworth Hospital in Kingston
A draft report by the South West London and St George's Mental Health NHS Trust (SWLSTG) proposes new facilities be built in Springfield and Tolworth serving people from Kingston, Merton, Sutton, Richmond and Wandsworth.
Investment in these two hospitals, they estimate, would cost up to £160m which would come from selling NHS land.
Another, less favoured proposal, is to maintain services at the three hospitals at an investment of £140m. However, this option would be much more expensive for the NHS in the long-run - £42.17m more than the preferred option over 50 years.
The report reveals a desire to reduce the number of mental health inpatient beds in the region by about 10 per cent, from 2018 onwards, by encouraging more people to be treated in the community and at home.
Sadiq Khan, MP for Tooting, said proposed cuts let local patients down once again. He said: "Wandsworth residents make up half of all those admitted to Queen Mary’s Hospital, yet these proposals mean they may have to travel to Kingston to receive treatment which I worry they may be unwilling to do.
"Springfield does a great job of serving our community - yet mental health services are already at breaking point. Not only will this move cost more in the long run, due to more local residents reaching crisis point and been admitted to A&E, and some unwilling to travel to Kingston, but it sends the wrong message about the lack of prioritisation of services for people with mental illness."
At the BMA’s annual meeting last month, doctors raised concerns about the loss of 1,700 acute mental health beds across the UK since 2011 - a 9 per cent reduction in available beds.
The meeting heard the situation was so bad that doctors were being forced to discharge patients quickly in order to free up beds. Meanwhile, another mental health trust spent £345,000 to put patients in bed and breakfasts.
Queen Mary’s Hospital mental health admissions 2013-14: 500 admissions 2013-14. Of these, admissions from the five local boroughs were:
- Kingston 27
- Merton 16
- Richmond 147
- Sutton 19
- Wandsworth 243
Queen Mary’s Hospital currently has three adult mental health wards. A spokesman for the SWLSTG, which runs the mental health services, said the acute wards, if vacated, would return to use by acute services and not remain empty.
Gerry Horner from the Keep our NHS Public south-west London group said: "Wandsworth is recognised as an area of high need for mental health services. The younger age-groups and transitory section of the population lead to more people presenting to services as emergencies. These factors appear to be being ignored.
"The further from home in-patients and their families have to travel the more inconvenient the service will be for them."
When asked if people would lose their jobs, a spokesman for SWLSTG said it was "not about jobs" but the preferred option did the most to guarantee frontline posts for the future. The trust would not specify numbers.
On top of all the changes the SWLSTG also has to make savings of £32m by 2020.
Dr Emma Whicher, medical director of the SWLSTG, said: "Mental health services in south-west London have already changed to help more people live at home with the right support and avoid unnecessary admissions to hospital. Service users and carers tell us this is what they want.
"There is now agreement that there should be parity of esteem between mental health and physical health needs and we have an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to invest up to £160m into developing local mental health inpatient facilities to make them the best in the country.
"We are working with our colleagues at NHS England and local clinical commissioning groups to finalise the details of the consultation, in which we want to hear from local people and organisations about the range of services to be provided from each hospital, and also about the future use of Queen Mary’s Hospital, Roehampton, for mental health inpatient services."
A decision on when to go to consultation will go to the board in the next month.