Mental health ward faces closure

HEALTH chiefs behind plans to cut £5.5m from mental health services in Comet country admit the decision could lead to high risk incidents and an increase in crime. Hertfordshire Partnership NHS Trust is facing a five per cent loss of its £110m budget for

HEALTH chiefs behind plans to cut £5.5m from mental health services in Comet country admit the decision could lead to high risk incidents and an increase in crime.

Hertfordshire Partnership NHS Trust is facing a five per cent loss of its £110m budget for 2007/08 as a result of the £48m debt currently incurred by the county's primary care trusts.

The decision follows a five per cent cut last year and includes £3,131,000 being slashed from adult mental health, achievable partly through the closure of a 20-bed ward at Lister Hospital and the cancellation of plans to expand services in Stevenage.

Child and adolescent mental health services will lose £398,000, partly by slashing in-patient beds for children with specialist eating disorders and cutting adolescent outreach teams so teenagers may have to stay longer in hospitals.

According to the report, these cuts could lead to the "loss of preventative and early intervention/support to children, young people and their families which may result in worsening of symptoms".

And stopping sex education and relationship services could lead to an "increased risk of offending behaviours with patients ending up in the criminal system".

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A reduction in psychology services will cut behavioural intervention, group and family therapy and anger and anxiety management.

Other proposed service cuts include £1,293,000 from older people's mental health, £223,000 from drug and alcohol and £465,000 from learning disabilities.

A spokesman for the Trust said: "We will be taking forward plans to meet these funding proposals."

A spokesman for The East and North Hertfordshire PCT said: "It was our aim to identify savings that will not have a big impact on services. Savings will be achieved, for example, by asking staff to work more flexibly so we don't have to recruit to vacant posts and by bringing patients back into Hertfordshire for services they are receiving elsewhere.

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