THE future of specialist mental health services in South Tyneside are in doubt because of a major National Health Service review.
A consultation will be launched next month looking at the future of the Bede Wing, based in the grounds of South Tyneside District Hospital.
Also being discussed is the long-term viability of ward 18 at the hospital, in Harton Lane, South Shields, where elderly patients with psychiatric problems are treated.
It is understood that options include the transfer of mental health inpatient services from South Tyneside to the currently under-construction Hopewood Park mental health hospital, in Ryhope, Sunderland, which is replacing the city’s old Cherry Knowle Hospital.
The consultation is being driven by the NHS South Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), the new NHS organisation responsible for the planning and buying in of healthcare and health services in the borough.
A spokesman for the group said the move aims to deliver mental health services “based on the best clinical evidence” and consultations will take place from November to February, including public meetings in the borough.
The review has the potential to have a “significant effect on service-users in South Tyneside”, Coun John McCabe told members of the council’s People Select Committee.
As a result, the council is to launch its own scrutiny commission to investigate what is being proposed.
Dr Jim Gordon, GP clinical lead for mental health with NHS South Tyneside CCG, and a GP at the Flagg Court surgery, in South Shields, said: “We want to look at the way specialist mental health services are provided for the people of South Tyneside.
“Part of this is to think about a new way of delivering these services which is based on the best clinical evidence and provides greater support to patients to help them recover more quickly.”
He added: “We want to improve and enhance our specialist community mental health services which means that more people will be treated either in their own homes, or closer to home and reduce the need to have to stay in hospital for mental ill-health.
“We are working very closely with our provider of mental health services, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust, and we plan to hold a public consultation about these issues over the winter months.
“During the consultation we would like to have an open discussion about these important yet complex issues to make sure we are doing all we can to have the best possible mental health services for the future.
“This means that more people with mental health problems can be helped to recover quickly and therefore return to good health.”
Speaking at the People Select Committee, chairman Coun McCabe, said: “In order to respond to this in a measured and informed way, I am suggesting that we undertake a scrutiny commission over the next few weeks to look more closely at what is proposed.
“The aim would be to come back to the next meeting of the committee with a report with recommendations to be considered as a major element of the consultation.”
Members endorsed the approach.
Who is using the service
FIGURES show that on a “snapshot” day on August 31 this year, 1,824 patients used mental health services in the borough.
But the vast majority – 1,777 or 96.4 per cent – received that support in the community, not in a hospital environment.
There were 18,000 mental health referrals in South Tyneside in the last year.
Only 47 patiemts in the borough with mental health problems were treated in a hospital setting on that day – and not all at hospitals in South Tyneside.
The CCG is led by local doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals and is a membership organisation made up of the borough’s 28 GP practices.
It has a budget of £223m to ensure that 153,000 people across the borough have access to the right healthcare services at the right time and place for their needs.