Yesterday afternoon, the entrance to the Meadowbrook Unit on Stott Lane saw campaigners leafleting visitors and lobbying the Greater Manchester West Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust (GMW Trust) about cuts to mental health services which could see wards closed in Salford and Bolton.
GMW Trust wants to `redesign' older adult mental health in-patient services, slashing the number of beds available for people with dementia, acute anxiety and depression in Salford by almost a half, from 66 to 35, and closing the Claremont ward at Meadowbrook in order to `re-locate' it, with less beds, miles away at Woodlands in Little Hulton. It also wants to shut down the Hawthorn facility in Bolton, reducing the overall beds in both areas from 116 to 70.
The GMW Trust argues that the units in both Salford and Bolton are `under capacity' – but minutes from the Salford Mental Health Partnership Board from 2011 state quite clearly that "The population is aging and with this comes the prediction of a 61% increase in dementia by 2026 and increasing demand on mental health and social care services"...
The GMW Trust explains that the new system would mean a "more efficient use of beds" as well as "enhancing the patient experience". Others beg to differ, hence the protest called by Salford Against The Cuts and U.S.U.C. (United Service Users Committee), with support from Keep Our NHS Public, Salford City UNISON and the GMW Trust's own workers' trade union Greater Manchester West Mental Health UNISON.
These organisations believe the moves are about slashing services, with the GMW Trust trying to make over £10million of cuts across Salford, Bolton and Trafford. Indeed its own report states that the loss of beds will help it achieve "the required savings target".
The `enhanced patient experience' would mean "patients to be managed in the community for as long as possible, thus avoiding unnecessary hospital admission"…
"How can we believe promises about `care in the community' when the ConDem Government is hell-bent on destroying communities?" stated Salford Against the Cuts yesterday "1500 mental health hospital beds have disappeared in recent years, we mustn't lose any more in Salford, Bolton and Trafford. Planned ward closures in Greater Manchester West Trust, including the re-location of adult dementia patients away from their families, are unacceptable."
At the protest were many mental health service users worried about the general slashing of services, of which the ward closures are the latest example…
"I've been in Meadowbrook on many, many occasions, it's saved my life many times and it's important that these wards stay open" said Phil Hamer who attended the demonstration "We've got staff here from the hospital supporting us because they know all the good work that's being done in Meadowbrook.
"We've got a purpose built hospital here with new wards, excellent security and safety, and it's local, with great bus services, and it's next to the main hospital so if people are poorly they can go straight over the road to A and E; it's got everything" he added "I feel it's important that this hospital stays here because it is well, well used."
Phil explained how rumours are sweeping the mental health service users community that the Claremont ward cut is just the tip of the iceberg, and that the GMW Trust might eventually centralise services in Prestwich hospital, which would be back to the old `asylum' days of mental health stigma… "Basically we just don't know what's going on, except that they are thinking of closing a ward here and in Bolton, but it would be nice to find out."
Service user, Billy McLean, was also at the protest.
"I've come down because I've got complex and ongoing mental health issues and I've been struggling to get the right support for a long time because of the cuts which have been implemented already" he said "If they make any more cuts to services I'm going to find it even more difficult. I think it's important to come down and make a stand.
"Services have been cut to the bone already" he added "I had a crisis last week, had to come in A and E, and they couldn't do a lot for me. I think it's important to preserve these services. Service users themselves are getting involved and campaigning against cuts that are affecting them personally, which gives these protests added weight and importance."
Indeed, the Salford demonstration follows a similar protest in Bolton recently attended by around fifty people, including a GMW Trust governor, as service users, trade unions and the community begin to fight back.
For more information and to sign the e-petition against the closures – click here