Closing Acer is the wrong mental health model

THANK you to The Hunts Post for again covering the current closure of Acer Ward so well. I and other campaigners read the letter from Sushil Jathanna, chief executive NHS Cambridgeshire and NHS Peterborough, and the article ‘Acer Anger Will Be Heard’ (January 18) with great interest. I’m sure we will be heard, but will we be listened to?

Mr Jathanna does a good write-up in his letter, but it still has to be remembered that NHS bosses were unable to convince Huntingdonshire District Council that closing Acer permanently is a good idea.

He also says that he wants to ‘ensure that good services are provided for all patients across Cambridgeshire’. Campaigners, who combined have extensive experience of mental health services in this area, really don’t think that this can be achieved for Huntingdonshire residents without retaining Acer Ward.

Anything else will simply trap the most severely ill, their families and friends in a never-ending cycle of exhausting and isolating journeys to and from Peterborough. This is where the isolation lies, not in the often-mentioned fact concerning Acer Ward as a single psychiatric ward at Hinchingbrooke Hospital.

It may stand alone, but it has many wards around it containing distressed people and excellent staff; the Newtown Centre mental health base in Huntingdon; the Home Treatment and Crisis Resolution service; Hunts Mind in St Neots etc. Acer is not alone, and it is our local community safety net.

Stays on inpatient wards are not a once in a lifetime experience. Sadly, conditions such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder (each suffered by approximately one in 100 of the population) are generally a life-long commitment.

Sometimes it seems to me that Acer Ward is being disposed of so that mental health bosses can rebuild the Lucille Van Geest at the Cavell Centre as planned. Everyone neat and tidy, asylum style, in Peterborough or Fulbourn.

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Life has moved on, though, since these outmoded times. Mental Health is here and now: our loved ones with us in our communities.

Rebuilding wards is an expensive business – money that could be well spent updating Acer, as is being done to the wards in Fulbourn, which have been heavily criticised by the Care Quality Commission.

More of this money could then be spent in helping Acer do what it does best, care for Huntingdonshire residents very well indeed. Then Mr Jathanna might well have those good mental health services across all of Cambridgeshire.


Alder Close

Eaton Ford