Huntingdonshire loses another mental health service after Acer closure

FRESH criticism has been levelled at mental health bosses after it emerged a further service has been moved from Huntingdon to Peterborough ahead of a consultation deadline on proposed changes.

At the same time as mental health ward at Hinchingbrooke Hospital - Acer Ward - closed its doors to patients, the base for Huntingdon’s home treatment therapy team was also moved to Peterborough.

The home treatment therapy team had previously been based at the Acer Ward, but after the ward temporarily closed in September, bosses at Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Foundation Trust, promised Huntingdonshire’s home treatment service would be enhanced.

However, director of operations Annette Newtown confirmed yesterday the service’s base had moved to Peterborough. She stressed there were more resources available for home visits in Huntingdonshire under the new arrangement.

“It is important to understand that previously the home treatment team and the ward team were one and the same. We now have a larger home treatment team that covers Peterborough, Fenland and the Huntingdonshire area.

“There is one main team which has a central administrative base in Peterborough but the staff are out in the community doing home visits to people in Huntingdonshire.

“There are still bases at the Newtown Centre and our staff hot desk in a number of sites, so they do not need to keep going back to the main team base.

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“All I can say is the home treatment team have a strong and visible presence in Huntingdon. How the admin and how the business side is organised, should not be an issue for the people using the service.

“The team can be contacted 24 hours a day and people know when to expect us. We are delivering exactly the same service.”

But former Acer Ward patient Liz Stokes, 32, said the loss of a Huntingdon-based team was another blow for local service users and their patients.

“The Acer Ward team was a really established team. There should be a home treatment team running from Huntingdon. It should be made up of the same people who know local people.”

Miss Stokes added that information in NHS Cambridgeshire’s consultation document on Acer Ward had been misleading. The document describes Acer Ward as a dormitory-style ward, when the ward had ten single ensuite rooms.

It includes a case study reflecting patients’ experiences of Acer Ward, in which the facilities are described as “intimidating” and patients can remain “unsettled.”

Miss Stokes, a former Ramsey resident who used the Cambridgeshire mental health services until she moved to Liverpool last year, said that view was pessimistic.

She said that the dormitory rooms had helped her recovery after she was admitted to Acer Ward for depression between 2000 and 2004.

“When you talk to people about dorms, they think of a dorm in a big room. They have made a lot of changes in the last couple of years.

“Now there are four beds in each dorm and the bathroom, so there have been privacy and dignity improvements. The staff team [at Acer] were a good staff team, and I think it should not go without a fight.”

INFORMATION: An online questionnaire inviting people’s comments on the proposed changes is available at Comments are invited until January 16.

A public meeting on the changes is also being held on December 7 from 6pm to 8pm at Room G.93 Oak Tree Centre, 1 Oak Drive, Huntingdon.