A&E hole has not be plugged for mental health patients

THE front page story regarding A&E at Hinchingbrooke Hospital (Waiting times to be halved, June 13) caught my eye.

Another initiative by Circle to improve practices at the hospital with a system which makes more senior staff available to see emergency patients within two instead of four hours, including a consistent weekend service.

The editor asked for people’s experiences of the A&E.

For those people turning up there to seek help for themselves or a loved one during a mental health crisis there is a stark contrast.

When the ‘temporary’ closure of Acer Ward was announced in October 2011, the then CPFT chief executive Jenny Raine assured patients that the restructure would include enhanced mental health services at A&E, but there are now no facilities for assessment of anyone presenting with mental health needs.

Such patients are currently directed to Peterborough – a difficult journey to make for someone in acute mental distress – or asked to wait until someone is called and able to attend from Peterborough, which can be many hours.

Alongside this current hole in provision at A&E, we Save Acer Ward campaigners have continued to hear stories of people finding it difficult to access the support they need due to the high eligibility thresholds in place to handle the demand/lack of capacity in the ‘redesigned’ mental health service. Sadly at the moment it seems someone must get ill enough before they are able to get the support they deserve.

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Having personally experienced the heartbreaking tragedy of the suicide of a family member, I have been deeply saddened to read reports of the inquests into such tragic early deaths of local people which seem to be appearing in these pages with worrying regularity. I have reviewed recent cases with regret, feeling these individuals may have benefited from an admission to the safe haven offered by an inpatient ward, or a face-to-face chat with an empathetic mental health professional as opposed to a short telephone conversation. These were thankfully both more easily available five to 10 years ago when my own mental health was less stable.

While I raise these important issues regarding local mental health services, which remain of ongoing and urgent concern, I’d like to also take this opportunity to extend a word of thanks – to the many highly skilled mental health professionals on the frontline who continue to work hard to best serve the people who come into their care, within what seem to me and others increasingly challenging parameters. An especial mention to the former Acer Ward staff team, whose compassionate care was appreciated by many service users and carers.

And so to one last issue which rests back with Circle: now that the Acer Ward building has been returned to their management, what will they and NHS commissioners deem there is a need for? Are there plans be for a private ward, as denied to The Hunts Post in February but continually rumoured?


Save Acer Ward campaign