A PUBLIC debate over a planned shake-up of mental health services in South Tyneside has been launched.
The consultation will centre on the future of the Bede Wing, based in the grounds of South Tyneside District Hospital.
It will also seek to weigh up the long-term viability of ward 18 at the South Shields hospital for treating elderly patients with psychiatric problems.
Options include the transfer of mental health in-patient services from South Tyneside to the new Hopewood Park mental health hospital in Ryhope, Sunderland, currently being built to replace the city’s Cherry Knowle Hospital.
The consultation will include three public meetings next month.
The NHS South Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group, the new body responsible for planning and buying health services in the borough, and Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust, the main provider of the majority of specialist mental health services here are seeking views on a range of proposals intended to provide the “best possible care for patients with serious mental illness”.
Dr David Hambleton, chief officer at the commissioning group, said: “Specialist mental health services include the sorts of services people might get from a community psychiatric nurse, treating people at home, through to the more serious cases, when someone might need to spend time in a psychiatric hospital.
“The changes we are talking about are to services that support people with complex mental health issues like severe depression, schizophrenia, psychosis and personality disorders.
“Together with the foundation trust, we have been looking carefully at the services needed to support people with these sorts of conditions, and we would like to organise them in a different and better way.
“We want to improve and enhance our specialist community mental treatment services, which will allow more people to be treated either in their own home, or closer to home, and reduce the need to have to stay in a psychiatric hospital for mental ill health.”
The proposals include getting rid of the specialist mental health in-patient beds at South Tyneside General Hospital’s Harton Lane site. These are to be found at the Bede Wing and the Leas – both stand-alone units in the hospital’s grounds – and ward 18 in the main hospital building.
Dr Douglas Gee, the foundation trust’s executive medical director, said: “There are important safety reasons why it’s far better that these patients, who are seriously ill, are treated in a bespoke therapeutic psychiatric hospital built to specifically meet their needs.
“The majority of people with serious mental health problems will never be treated in hospital.
“Even people with very high levels of need can be supported intensively at home.
“These changes will help us to deliver excellent community services that are responsive and provide effective treatment, and for those that need to be in hospital, we will create an environment that truly helps them to recover.”
The public meetings will take place at the Living Waters Church in St Jude’s Terrace, South Shields, on Wednesday, January 15, from 1.30pm to 3pm; the Customs House in South Shields on Wednesday, January 22, from 6pm to 7.30pm; and Bede’s World in Jarrow on Wednesday, January 29, from 1.30pm to 3pm.
Details of the consultation process can be found online at www.southtynesideccg.nhs.uk/get- involved/my-life