Acer Ward decision due

CAMPAIGNERS against the closure of Hinchingbrooke Hospital’s mental health ward will find out on Wednesday whether or not it has been saved.

Acer Ward was “temporarily” closed in October after it was deemed unsafe by clinicians but it could be closed for good next month if a shake-up of Cambridgeshire’s mental health services is approved.

Members of the joint board of NHS Cambridgeshire and NHS Peterborough are due to meet at Ely’s Princess of Wales Hospital on Wednesday morning, where the plans will be discussed.

The National Clinical Advisory Team advised NHS Cambridgeshire that Acer Ward be closed for safety reasons – because 14 out of 33 jobs on the ward were vacant.

Since the ward’s closure, patients, carers and community leaders have spoken out against the decision. A four-month consultation into the closure finished in January, but protestors have continued to demonstrate against the cut in local provision – staging pickets outside the Huntingdon hospital and collecting signatures on a petition to save the ward.

On Saturday, campaigners in St Ives and St Neots collected 400 signatures on their petition, taking the total number to more than 2,000.

Campaigner and former patient Liz Stokes told The Hunts Post: “It was a much quieter weekend than we planned but we still got more than 400 signatures. It is interesting getting out there and talking to people - no one is for the closure, everybody is against it.

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“We’re trying to be realistic; we get the impression that the board made their decision last May. They are not that interested in hearing how it is for people; they have made their decision and that’s how it stands. It feels like whatever we could have done, it wouldn’t have made a difference.”

With Huntingdonshire’s only inpatient facility now closed, service users, their carers, family and friends now face lengthy journeys to the under-fire Cavell Centre in Peterborough for treatment.

Cathy Mitchell, director of integrated commissioning said: “The board will consider all the responses to the consultation however, we are still recommending that inpatient wards for adults are combined. This is for clinical reasoning. Even if Acer Ward were to be refurbished to modern standards, the unit would only be about half-full because many more people nowadays can be safely cared for in their own homes.

“It would not be possible to provide a modern recovery-oriented service safely to such a relatively isolated site. The local GP-led commissioning groups and the Joint Committee appointed by Cambridgeshire County Council and Peterborough City Council Overview and Scrutiny Committees also all support the recommendations we are making to the board.”

The board is being asked to support a travel fund to assist with the difficulty people would have in travelling to Peterborough if Acer Ward was closed.

INFORMATION: The board meeting will take place on Wednesday, March 28, at 9.30am in the Conference Room, Princess of Wales Hospital, Lynn Road, Ely.