“What is being done to address the obvious need for more mental health beds and facilities at Medway Hospital?”
The Portfolio Holder for Housing and Community Services, Councillor Doe, on behalf of Councillor Brake stated that the whole of this Council agreed with Mr Chaplin that there was a need for better health services for people with mental health needs both at Medway Maritime Hospital and in the community.
He advised that Medway Council was directly responsible for social care services and the first decision that Councillor Brake made on taking up this portfolio was to serve notice on a failing health and social care provider, KMPT, and to return the social care mental health services to Medway Council. That decision proved to be right and delivered a transformation in social care services for people with mental health needs and their family carers here in Medway.
Councillor Doe stated that Councillor Brake had tirelessly campaigned for better local health services for people with mental health needs and had taken this matter up with the responsible NHS commissioners on several occasions. Councillor Brake had been very clear in fighting for local mental health services for Medway – not just to be parochial but because there was a clear case that local mental health services could better respond to people at times of crisis, and contribute to better outcomes in terms of recovery from mental illness. A part of staying well in the community was knowing that specialist services were available and accessible should they be needed and this should not be underestimated.
He stated that Medway Council’s Health and Adult Social Care Overview and Scrutiny Committee had continuously challenged NHS commissioners and the provider KMPT on the sufficiency and the quality of health care provided to Medway people with mental health needs. The Committee referred the matter to the Secretary of State and they continued to this day to scrutinise the issue at each and every meeting.
Mr Chaplin stated that £1.3m had been spent so far in sending mental health patients out of the area because there were no beds in Medway. Other services such as the Police had to accommodate these patients, which was wholly inappropriate, therefore it was clear that the number of beds available simply was not enough.
He asked whether he could have an assurance from Councillor Brake or Councillor Doe that they would bring more pressure to bear upon the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) to commission more mental health beds, and if not, why not.
Councillor Doe stated that he had made it clear in his first answer that both he and Councillor Brake did press for this with the health authorities. He stated that Medway Council was not in charge of this service and therefore the Council could not directly tell them to provide this money but the Council could act as the voice of the local people in making sure they were aware of concerns.
Councillor Doe stated that he agreed with the questioner that sending people out of the area for common mental health problems was quite unreasonable. Where people had very specialist mental health needs then maybe they did have to go outside of Medway and that this was unfortunate, however, for the great majority of people care provided in the communities where they lived was extremely important.