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Farron Challenges Minister To Save Mental Health Ward

June 14, 2016 3:10 PM

Tim speaking in ParliamentSouth Lakes MP Tim Farron challenged a health minister to save Kendal's mental health ward in a debate in parliament yesterday. The Conservative minister refused to express his support for the ward remaining open, saying "everything cannot be available in every local community".

The decision to close the Kentmere Ward has been put on hold, and a final decision is due later this summer.

In the debate, Tim said: "In the face of this latest threat, the character of our community is once again shining through… ours is a special community, which will fight with unique energy and tenacity for mental and physical healthcare that is high quality and accessible."

"This ward is providing excellent care from outstanding staff in a physical setting that requires some improvement. It most definitely does not require closure."

"Closure would harm the health of some of the most vulnerable people in our community. It is utterly unacceptable that those people will have to be shipped off to Barrow, Whitehaven or Carlisle rather than being treated much closer to home in Kendal. What is more, there is no guarantee that those far distant wards will have the capacity to accommodate them. Already, patients sometimes face the immense journey to Manchester, for example. For many less well-off residents, a round trip to these alternative wards of up to 100 miles, with many hours on the bus or train, will put family and loved ones beyond easy reach."

"Closure of the unit in Kendal would mean that our local police force, which is already heavily stretched, under-resourced and under pressure, would have to take patients vast distances across Cumbria to far-off mental health units, taking officers off the beat and threatening the safety and security of our rural communities."

"I personally thank every single one of the thousands of local people involved in our campaign. Between us, we forced the trust to hold back on closure. I am especially grateful to volunteers from South Lakeland Mind, and to the local media outlets that have shown such strong support to the campaign. This is only a temporary reprieve for Kentmere ward, and our work is far from complete. My message to the people of South Lakeland is that this is the moment to step up our campaign, energised and encouraged by this success and spurred on by victories in campaigns for our hospital over the last few years. My message to patients and their families is: we will stand with you and we will not give up, because we must not give up."

"It has been very clear from my discussions with the trust over the last few days that its default position is still to close the ward."

"The long-term effects of closing the unit would be far greater than the short-term savings. If the Government are serious about mental health, they must put words into action and prove it by stepping in and preventing the closure of this vital ward."

However, Conservative Health Minister Alistair Burt MP refused Tim's challenge to "clearly instruct the Cumbria Partnership trust not to close this vital ward" and make clear that "closure is off the table."

Although Burt accepted that community services "cannot be a total substitute for the in-patient acute beds that are needed", he insisted that "the NHS has to make difficult decisions about where and how to provide services. To put it bluntly, everything cannot be available in every local community."

Commenting afterwards, Tim said: "It is disappointing that the minister would not express his support for the unit and join me in putting pressure on health bosses to keep it open. Communities like ours may be rural, but that does not mean we deserve a second-rate service. People should not have to travel halfway across the county to access mental health services."