Concerns over service change

Sandwell Park. Picture by FRANK REID
Sandwell Park. Picture by FRANK REID
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COUNCILLORS have responded angrily after a hospital service for mental health patients was closed for a six-month trial because it was found to be not fit for purpose.

People who are found in public places in a state of mental distress and are detained under the Mental Health Act used to be taken to a room in Sandwell Park, in Lancaster Road, Hartlepool, to be assessed.

But instead people are now going to a better equipped facility at Roseberry Park, in Middlesbrough, after Sandwell Park’s Place of Safety failed to meet the standards set by the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

Councillors met to discuss the six-month trial, which started on October 1, at a meeting of Hartlepool Borough Council’s adult services committee.

They heard the facility failed to meet the standards because the area is not separate, there was no opportunity for patients to lie down and patients’ privacy and dignity was also compromised.

But councillors hit out at the decision to close it for six months and say Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the facility, should have consulted before the decision was taken.

Independent councillor Keith Fisher said: “Is it just me or do I expect too much? To be taken out of town is going to add to the trauma.”

Labour councillor Kaylee Sirs said she was “disgusted”, while Labour councillor Carl Richardson said the council should be urging the Trust to bring the Sandwell Park facility “up to standard” over the next six months.

Meanwhile, Stephen Thomas, of Healthwatch, called on them to present their vision for mental health services in Hartlepool at a future meeting.

In the last year, Sandwell Park saw 28 people who were believed to be mentally unwell in public.

They included 18 at weekends or out of normal working hours.

Geraldine Martin, the council’s head of service in adult social care, stressed the trial closure only affected the Place of Safety assessment room and said all comments should be fed back as part of the trial.

Nobody from the Trust attended the meeting but a spokesperson has previously said the Section 136 room at Sandwell Park no longer met the relevant Royal College of Psychiatrists standards, while the Section 136 suite at Roseberry Park is a “specialist, purpose built environment, attached to psychiatric intensive care facilities”.

Once a patient has been assessed transport will be arranged to take them home or to hospital if inpatient treatment is required.