Yorkshire councils unite to pull apart 'unacceptable' mental health plans in Harrogate

Chair of the Committee, Councillor Jim Clark said: "It really has been a bit of a bureaucratic mess."
Chair of the Committee, Councillor Jim Clark said: "It really has been a bit of a bureaucratic mess."

Three Yorkshire councils have agreed to work together to 'pull apart' plans for mental health services in the region as Harrogate faces losing 34 hospital beds.

North Yorkshire County Council has joined forces with Leeds and York City Councils to scrutinise plans to close all in-patient mental health facilities in Harrogate and move them to York in 2020.

The new partnership was founded at the meeting of North Yorkshire's Scrutiny of Health Committee on Friday, after it transpired that the plans by Harrogate's Clinical Commissioning Group have not even been given planning permission by York councillors.

Chair of the Committee, Councillor Jim Clark said: "It really has been a bit of a bureaucratic mess.

"We are very lucky to have some very good frontline services and the nurses and doctors and support staff are second to none. Where we fail is that we have poor management who are very bureaucratic. This has been going on for years."

Until July 2017, Harrogate was set to have a brand new, purpose built mental health facility, which would replace the three outdated wards at Harrogate District Hospital, including the Briary wing.

The NHS Trust for mental health in the north of England, Tees Esk and Wear Valley (TEWV) had spent £16 million buying the land at Beckwith Head Road in Harrogate, and had even been granted planning permission, when Harrogate's Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) declared a £14 million deficit in its budget.

A decision was taken to postpone work on the facility, and the plans were at a standstill for over a year, until last week - when the CCG revealed that its new vision was to completely move provision out of the district and to a new hospital, under construction in York.

Coun Clark said: "The CCG are still saying no decisions have been made but its pretty clear that they are trying to get out of building the hospital at Harrogate. We said that was unacceptable.

"They want to build more beds at York but they haven't even got planning permission. They have a facility with planning permission here, where they bought the land and got as far as architects drawings. The local MP said at the time that it was going to be the biggest investment in mental health in the history of Harrogate.

He added: "It's seems crazy and they must have lost hundreds of thousands of pounds getting the planning permission and getting the architects drawings - it was right up to the point of being ready to start building."

But York councillors are not the only ones who have not been consulted on the plans.

Coun Clark said that the CCG had 'forgotten' about patients living in Wetherby and questions were also raised over whether the Yorkshire Ambulance Service was consulted, as the decision will mean more frequent long journeys to transfer Harrogate patients to the cities.

He said: "We are going to work together, the three councils, to get a proper public consultation on this because we had a letter from the Chairman of the scrutiny board for Harrogate and West Yorkshire who hadn't been consulted at all - they had forgotten all about Wetherby."

But Coun Clark says there is time to sort out this 'nightmare' as Harrogate mental health services will not be able to transfer to York for another two years.

"We are coming together to really pull apart the plans they have got for mental health. We have said that if we don't get answers we will be reporting it to the Secretary of State for Health.

He added: "They have been trying to push this through but we have got time to look at these proposals because even if the beds go, the facility in York won't be ready until 2020 so we have two years to get this sorted."

But Dr Peter Billingsley, Clinical Lead for Mental Health for Harrogate CCG said engagement had shown that ‘wherever possible’ people want to be treated at home.

He said: “We have engaged extensively with local people and they have told us that wherever possible they want to receive the mental health care and support they need at home. This decision by the CCG Governing Body will enable us to do that.

“We will be able to invest more in community care, prevention, early intervention and recovery locally while ensuring that people who need to be admitted into a hospital receive appropriate specialist care in a setting which is best able to support their timely and sustained recovery.

“Inpatient services will be provided outside the district and this could possibly be provided by extending the specialist mental health hospital currently being built in York. We now need to do more detailed work with local people and partner organisations to develop our proposals.”