The Independent London Newspaper


Health News - Two mental health hospitals to be axed?

Published: 30 September, 2010

NHS bosses could axe two of Camden and Islington’s four mental health hospitals along with between 100 and 130 beds for vulnerable patients.

The Camden and Islington Foundation Trust has begun a public consultation on the closure of the Grove Centre in the Royal Free Hospital – and either the St Pancras Hospital in Somers Town or Queen Mary House in Hampstead.

At a press conference on Thursday, the Trust’s clinical director Dr Sylvia Tang said the beds – more than a third of the total of 304 beds – are surplus to requirements as mental health patients are better off being cared for in their home or at neighbourhood crisis centres. She said there had been a “sustained vacancy in bed usage in the Trust this year” and 75 beds are currently empty because of the success of the Care in the Community programme.

But critics insist the scheme does not work.

Tim Salmon, who wrote a book about mental health in Camden, said: “In 2006 when my son was last discharged from hospital, the Grove Centre had only just been opened and the Trust was busy congratulating itself on building this wonderful new facility. 

“It was so full that patients were being shuttled from ward to ward and even to other hospitals; on a couple of occasions my son was even sent to sleep in a Hampstead hotel!

“So what has the Trust done these last three or four years to make such a success of the Care in the Community programme all of a sudden that they do not need those overcrowded hospital beds any more?”

Former mental health carer Shirley Franklin, chairwoman of the Defend Whittington Hospital Coalition which is campaigning against mental health cuts,  added: “The thing that makes me sick is that they talk about under-occupancy as if the need has gone. It is effectively a lie and total nonsense – because it makes out there isn’t a need when there is a need.”

The Trust’s finance director Colin Plant told the New Journal all staff would be offered alternative positions and there would be no redundancies.

The closure of the hospitals could also pave the way for the Royal Free  to realise its “estates strategy”, proposed by departing chief executive Andrew Way when he left the Hampstead hospital last year. 

The Grove Centre building, which has 44 beds, is in the hospital’s south car park. The land could be sold to developers.

Queen Mary House is in a prime location in Hampstead with rolling views of Whitestone pond and the Heath. 

The consultation documents are available on the C&I Trust’s website. 


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