Fears over closure of woman-only mental health centre

Pic: Public Domain Pictures

Pic: Public Domain Pictures

The proposed closure of a pioneering ‘by women, for women’ mental health centre in Purley has been strongly criticised by patients.

Croydon Clinical Commissioning Group last week launched a consultation around the closure of the Foxley Lane Women’s Service, an 8-bed women’s ward, which supports women experiencing a mental health crisis.

Over the next few years, the NHS in Croydon must find millions of pounds worth of savings from its squeezed budget.

Tim Oldham, Coordinator of ‘Hear Us’, Croydon’s mental health service user group, said: “Everybody needs an individual care package for when they go home. But this change is about money.”

He blamed the government for underfunding Croydon’s NHS services, and said a consultation event last week was highly emotional, with  users of the service “very, very angry.”

“It’s really sad that it’s closing, it’s a very therapeutic environment compared to a normal inpatient environment,” he said.

“It’s stupid, closing services like Foxley Lane, preventative services. It just creates more demand for inpatient services,” Oldham added. “Foxley Lane is expensive, but it’s a worthwhile investment.”

Dr Hugh Jones, Clinical Director of the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the service, said: “Foxley Lane is valued by the women who have been treated there and the service receives very positive patient feedback” but it is no longer “value for money.”

The CCG said it intends to replace the service with care in people’s homes and in the community.  It admitted that Foxley Lane was unique and there were no comparable institutions locally for either men or woman. It stressed that it had increased funding for mental health services by £9m over the past two years.

Local painter, Nicky Nicholls, who was one of the first three residents of the Women’s Service when it opened in 1999, has mixed feelings about the centre.

Nicholls told Eastlondonlines: “My art started at the Women’s Service.”

The Phantom Carousel. Credit: Nicky Carousel

“It was a great idea, and it had never been done before. The Women’s Service gave me the courage to paint, to give back to society.”

Nicholls said that it was a good change from hospital for many people and very “calming.”

Nicholls added: “Women get much more attention at Foxley Lane than they do in hospital.” She said some women had found this attention wonderful, but at times she had found it too much to deal with.

“I’m still mixed up about it,” Nicholls said. “I think it must be overwhelming for the nurses to be in that close contact every day.”

Over the last two years, Croydon CCG said it had “invested more than £9 million to improve access to mental health services and develop community care services.”

They added that the local NHS is aiming to “reduce the reliance on inpatient services as mental health specialists and patients agree that supporting people near to where they live is the most effective way of helping people to get better quicker.”

NHS Croydon CCG and South London and Maudsley NHS Trust are holding a meeting to discuss the proposed closure with local people on Wednesday 30th November, from 6-8pm at Bernard Weatherill House, Croydon.

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