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New Whittington unit for mental health patients comes under fire for no extra beds

The move from St Pancras Hospital to the Whittington will cost around £82.5million

06 September, 2019 — By Emily Finch

Plans for the new building at Whittington Hospital 

A NHS campaigner has questioned why no extra beds will be provided under a multi-million pound plan to move mental health patients from St
Pancras Hospital to Whittington Hospital in Archway.

Shirley Franklin, who heads Defend the Whittington Hospital Coalition, said that the number of inpatient beds should reflect the increasing number of people going through severe mental health crises.

Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust unveiled its planned new building, which will have 84 inpatient beds, at the Whittington Hospital this week. The new facility will not have more beds than St Pancras Hospital.

Ms Franklin said: “There’s a massive shortage of beds. They closed 100 beds in 2011 to cover a shortfall in NHS spending but there’s an increasing number of very sick people who struggle to find beds in mental health facilities.”

She explained how she faced a “huge problem” when someone she cares for who suffers from poor mental health came home at the weekend.

“They were still very ill and while he was at home his bed was taken by someone else and they tried to stop him coming back. So while someone is in a crisis, someone else is booted out of their bed,” she added.

Islington had the highest number of people in England treated under the Mental Health Act in August last year. Those detained under the act can
be treated for mental health problems without their consent because they are seen as a threat to themselves or others.

Ms Franklin pointed to figures from the Office for National Statistics released this week which said the rate of suicides in Britain was now at
its highest level since 2002.

Shirley Franklin campaigning in 2017 

The Camden and Islington trust purchased land opposite Highgate Mental Health Centre for £12.5million from Whittington Health NHS Trust earlier this year. It will cost approximately £70million to build the new facility.

The move is “to address the ageing hospital buildings at St Pancras”, says the trust, and will allow it to sell parts of St Pancras Hospital so it can afford to build “community hubs” in Greenland Road, Camden Town, and Lowther Road, Islington, to treat people outside a hospital setting.

Moorfields Eye Hospital, in Old Street, is planning to move into the St Pancras Hospital site.

A spokeswoman for the Camden and Islington trust said: “We believe we can offset the impact of demographic change through early intervention and increased community and practice-based activity.

“The trust already has a high number of beds when we benchmark against other London trusts, but our community offer is small and that is where
the problem lies.

“Hospitals are not the best environments for most people’s recovery. Clinical research shows it is more effective to see people early on in
their illness.

“To meet this need, therefore, we will be increasing our community and practice-based activity by investing in developing 21st century
facilities across Camden and Islington.”

The spokeswoman added: “There will be no reduction in the number of beds we currently provide and we will continue to review our bed capacity to
ensure we have the appropriate numbers to meet local need.”

Residents can see the plans on September 9 and September 16 from 2pm to 7pm, Room 4, Education Centre, Whittington Hospital.

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