THE Victorians Built Asylums Where People [...]

The Journal (Newcastle, England), March 24, 2016 | Go to article overview

THE Victorians Built Asylums Where People [...]


Byline: FRANK HINDLE

THE Victorians built asylums where people deemed to have mental problems could be locked up and kept out of the way. Families with relatives in asylums were encouraged to forget about them.

One hundred and fifty years on, and our understanding of mental health has improved, even though its funding is still insufficient. The NHS is coming to terms with "parity of esteem" - the need to assess and treat mental conditions on a par with physical conditions. Additional money is now being provided for mental health, and the GP-led Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) that are responsible for commissioning most NHS services have been instructed to ensure that mental health gets a fair share of the budgets.

A national Mental Health Taskforce was set up last year, and last month it issued a report that was welcomed by Government, professionals and charities involved in mental health. Its recommendations include the provision of acute mental health services "as close to home as possible" and that the practice of sending people out of area is ended.

It is in this context that we need to see the review of specialist mental health services which Newcastle-Gateshead CCG started in 2014. According to the Taskforce's report, Newcastle-Gateshead CCG spends less, per head, on mental health than any of its neighbours.

A set of proposals with options was published in November. There is much that is good in them, including a long-overdue proposal to increase in community mental health services. While most mental health needs can be addressed within the community there will always be some patients who need a period of time in an acute in-patient ward, and that is where many people see a problem.

The consultation proposals show a clear preference for the acute in-patient services for patients from Newcastle and Gateshead to be situated well away from Tyneside - by expanding either Hopewood Park in Ryhope, or St George's hospital near Morpeth.

Both of these hospitals are fine modern establishments, but are at sites that the NHS acquired in 1948, that were first used for mental health patients in the 19th century and that will be hard for many people into get to. …

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