Right when proposals are afoot to cut hospital services on the grounds that it’s better for patients to have “Care Closer to Home”, users of an NHS community-based Art Psychotherapy service in Calderdale are fighting to save it from closure after the therapists were given compulsory redundancy notices over the Christmas period.
If the redundancies go ahead then vulnerable people with complex mental health problems will have their therapy terminated prematurely on the 31st March with no suitable alternative in place for them.
This bears out the warning from Calderdale 38 Degrees NHS Chair Jane Rendle to Calderdale and Kirklees Joint Health Scrutiny Committee, that the current proposals to cut hospital services and move them into the “community” risks repeating the disastrous mental health “Care in the Community” scheme from the 1980s/90s. She reminded Councillors that:
“Once the hospitals had closed, funding for mental health Care in the Community was whittled away, leading to inadequate care and no hospital back up.”
These cuts have been accompanied by increasing privatisation of mental health services.
Axing the only community-based service for medium to long term psychotherapy
The South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust plans to axe a valuable community service that specialises in providing medium to long-term art psychotherapy to people who have complex and enduring mental health problems.
It is the only service of its type in Calderdale. The only other therapies offered by the Trust are short term, lasting an average of 15 weeks. Many of those receiving art psychotherapy have suffered severe trauma in childhood and as adults. They need long term therapy so that they can work through deep rooted problems. This is not possible in a short-term intervention.
Veronika Murtagh, a care leaver is one of the many people who have benefited from the service. Initially she was sceptical about what the service could offer her but now she says:
“It saved my life. It helped me reclaim a life that was stolen by being brought up in care. I’ve reclaimed the essence of who I am and I’m thriving”
Another Service User describes how she was emotionally, physically and sexually abused throughout her childhood. She says:
“When I first started Art Psychotherapy I was suffering with paranoia, extreme anxiety, hearing voices, self harm and suicidal feelings. I was often debilitated to the point of being unable to take care of myself. The one constant in all this was the Art Psychotherapist. My mental health has gradually improved as I have worked through my issues. I am only part way through my therapy, to have it end in this way could easily cause my mental health to go downhill”
Service users are angry that Karen Taylor, District Director has been quoted in the Huddersfield examiner as saying that the Trust is “reviewing” the art therapy service and that
“These are proposals at this stage and no final decision has been made”.
Service users point to the fact that compulsory redundancies have been issued which, if they go ahead as planned, will close the service on the 31st March.
No consultation or discussion with service users
Service Users say there has been no discussion or consultation with them, and no forethought as to the disastrous impact the closure will have on them.
Users of the service argue that the service saves the NHS tens of thousands of pounds, and it is a false economy to close it. Many of them have needed multiple hospital admissions and crisis intervention and home treatment teams in the past. These interventions have been reduced or stopped altogether through the art psychotherapy.
A service users who wishes to remain anonymous says:
“In the past I was in and out of hospital repeatedly for years. Art Psychotherapy has given me a consistent, safe and supportive environment in which to work through the traumas that I have suffered, I have been in the therapy for about 4 years and have not had a single hospital admission in that time.”
A hospital admission costs £458 per night, according to information on the regionalvoices.org website. The Art Psychotherapy Service costs £80,000 per year.
It only takes three people to have a 3 month stay in hospital at a cost of £115 668 to far exceed the yearly cost of the art psychotherapy Service .