The Independent London Newspaper


Hospital beds crisis

Published: 18 February, 2011

• CAMDEN and Islington Mental Health Trust is consulting on “Changing Mental Health Hospital Services”. The first question is: do you agree that across Camden and Islington we should reduce the number of mental health hospital beds? They are referring to the closure of 95 beds in the trust – that’s a third of the current beds.

This is a preposterous question. They have already closed 28 beds at St Luke’s and an entire ward has no beds in it at Highgate Mental Health Centre. 

There is an inadequate quantity of mental health beds in the area. Because vast numbers of staff are due to be made redundant, no new staff are being appointed. So these vulnerable patients are being nursed by large numbers of agency staff, many of whom might be unfamiliar to them.

Further, a new system of bed allocation has been developed. Patients are now admitted into assessment wards – full of patients who are at the worst end of their breakdowns, and who can have a frightening impact on other patients, thereby negatively affecting recovery. Because there is now a serious bed crisis in the service, it is really difficult to move out of the assessment ward  – patients can be there for 15 days or more.

Mental health needs are particularly high in Islington. Last year it had the highest suicide rate in the country and was the eighth poorest borough.

As the cuts impact on jobs and services, mental health needs are going to increase even further. So, more mental health beds are required, not fewer. More trained staff are needed on the wards, not fewer. 

More resources are needed – gymnasia and a wider variety of recreation classes at hospitals and in day care centres, where opening hours are currently threatened with reductions.

People with mental health problems are among the most vulnerable and stigmatised. They need our support. 

Please join our campaign at Defend the Whittington Hospital Coalition and at Islington Hands off our Public Services (

Chair, Defend the Whittington Hospital Coalition


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