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Gillingham's Liberal candidate: Re-instate Mental Health Unit in Medway

May 13, 2017 2:04 PM
By Paul Chaplin

PaulChaplinMedway Hospital's Mental Health Unit was closed in Dec 2013 by Jeremy Hunt because it was claimed to be not fit for purpose.

Since then, any patient suffering with a mental illness has to be sent out of area for treatment, sometimes hundreds of miles away from their families and familiar surroundings.

It is unacceptable that the Police have to deal with these unfortunate patients, who are often handcuffed to a Police Officer whilst they wait in A&E and then, more often than not, forced to remain in a cell until a bed can be found for them. A third of all police time is taken up having to look after these poor people, and they simply are not trained to do so.

They are doing a wonderful job in providing these patients with a place of safety, but they are not getting the treatment they need, or deserve.

This will get worse when in summer 2017 the Police will no longer be able to hold a mental health patient purely on the grounds of providing a place of safety. What will happen to them?

There are already precious few places of safety for these patients, hence the current situation; how does preventing the police providing places of safety actually help these patients, unless you provide alternative provision?

All this does is criminalise these poor people whose only 'crime' is to be suffering from a mental health disorder.

Since Medway's Mental Health unit was closed the KMPT(Kent and Medway NHS Social Care Partnership Trust) has spent £5.6m sending patients out of area for treatment.

The county's NHS mental health trust spent more than £5 million on private hospitals last year due to a shortage of beds for patients. A Freedom of Information request shows 356 patients in Kent were placed into private care over just 12 months because beds could not be found. The patients, detained under the Mental Health Act, were sent to "places of safety" up and down the country at a cost of £5,671,000 to the taxpayer Wouldn't it have been better for everyone, especially mental health patients and their families, if that £5.6m had been spent making the unit at Medway fit for purpose?

To continue to pay other health authorities these vast sums of money to treat local people seems a criminal waste of money when our own hospital could be providing this service for the people of Medway and freeing up police time to tackle crime.