Staff and ex-residents of the flagship Henderson Hospital for people with personality disorders are rallying to save the unit from permanent closure.
A fighting fund has been set up for the hospital in Sutton, Surrey, which closed its doors last Friday for what could be the final time.
Jo Brand, the comedian and former psychiatric nurse, and a group of opposition MPs are supporting the campaign to either re-open the 29-bed therapeutic community or launch a similar residential unit elsewhere in south east England. Campaigners hope to involve Brand and other public figures in awareness-raising events in the coming months.
South West London and St George’s NHS Mental Health Trust is closing the Henderson on a “temporary” basis. Although the long-term future of the psychiatric unit will be decided by a major public consultation beginning later this year, its outreach services will continue.
A spokesperson for the trust said a team of three clinicians and one manager will remain at the hospital to meet “the clinical needs of ex-residents and any new referrals”. The rest of the 30 staff members are being redeployed elsewhere within the trust.
‘Retain service model’
Tom Brake, MP for nearby Carshalton and Wallington, who visited the Henderson with five other opposition MPs earlier this month, is urging the trust to safeguard its “24 hours a day, seven days a week” model of care.
“The core staff should be retained to allow the model to continue, even if that means finding another building,” he said.
“I will be lobbying my counterparts in Westminster from all parties.”
The trust argues that the “temporary” closure is due to falling resident numbers, which mean the service model is no longer viable.
Commissioning flaws ‘sparked funding crisis’
But John Stevens, a consultant psychiatrist who has worked at the hospital for the last four years, says flaws in the commissioning arrangements led to the “funding crisis” which now surrounds the Henderson. He slammed as “disastrous” the Department of Health’s decision in 2005 to delegate funding of the unit to local primary care trusts on a case-by-case basis, allowing some of them to opt out of financing the service.
Stevens said it was not too late for the government to save the Henderson by strengthening the commissioning structure.
“We could have a sufficient critical mass of patients whose funding was assured by an effective national or regional funding mechanism and the Henderson could remain open. We could go to referrers and say ‘send us patients because the funding is assured’.”
A DH spokesperson said: “There are well established criteria and an agreed application process for service providers who wish to apply to be nationally funded and commissioned.”
She added that the DH was currently reviewing personality disorder services.