The Independent London Newspaper

 

Camden and Islington's mental health patients to be cared for in ‘virtual hospital’

Published: 14th January, 2011
by TOM FOOT

SEVERELY ill mental health patients will in the future be cared for in a “virtual hospital”, NHS bosses have announced.

The Camden and Islington Foundation Trust (C&IFT) has announced plans to close two mental hospitals used by thousands of Islington mental patients each year as it struggles to save £20 million over the next three years.

In their place, the Trust says it will open a hospital that does not exist – a “virtual hospital”.

A C&IFT report says: “We aim to provide a virtual hospital by delivering a range of services at all times of the day without needing admission to hospital. A virtual hospital is when a group of service users receive their care in the community even though they have complex medical and social needs.”

The phrase “in the community” is NHS-speak for at home, with crisis teams available if a patient needs emergency care.

The Trust has four mental hospitals – three in Camden and also the Highgate Mental Health Centre. But it wants to close two of them. 

Under the changes, out for public consultation, at least 93 beds will be lost.

Trust bosses say they can guarantee patients admission to hospital wards “if clinically necessary”.

But they have withdrawn charts and statistics showing rising levels of “vacant beds” after the figures were challenged and shown to be misleading by a freedom of information request by the Tribune.

A Trust insider said: “Having abandoned their phoney figures on bed occupancy, we now have to suffer their nonsense about creating ‘virtual hospitals’. There’s nothing virtual about closing a hundred hospital beds. Once they’re closed there will be nowhere for people to go.”

A consultation is available online at www.candi.nhs.uk/news-and-events/consultations 

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