Harrogate district has 'been screwed' when it comes to mental health services, councillor warns

The assertion came from North Yorkshire County Councillor Geoff Webber at a meeting of the Harrogate and Knaresborough Area Constituency Committee.
The assertion came from North Yorkshire County Councillor Geoff Webber at a meeting of the Harrogate and Knaresborough Area Constituency Committee.

The Harrogate district has “been screwed” when it comes to mental health services in the region, senior councillors have agreed.

The assertion, made by North Yorkshire County Councillor Geoff Webber at a meeting of the Harrogate and Knaresborough Area Constituency Committee, came as councillors voted to contact MPs and issue press releases in a bid to draw attention to Harrogate’s current mental health situation.

It comes a month after Harrogate and Rural District CCG and Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust reiterated their position to favour a proposal which would see Harrogate patients sent to York for in-patient care.

The proposal also includes scrapping plans for a 36-bed mental health centre at Harrogate’s Cardale Park, intended as a direct replacement at the Briary Wing at Harrogate District Hospital.

The plan would instead see more invested into community health services in the district, as opposed to an in-patient care facility.

It’s a proposal that attracted criticism from various councillors at the March 21 meeting.

“Basically, I have to excuse the language, as residents of Harrogate we’ve been screwed both by the NHS and the CCG,” Coun Webber (Harrogate Bilton and Nidd Gorge division) said.

Coun Webber implored the county council to now make “such a fuss” that the issue would gain wider political attention.

“I really do wish the county council would take a public position on this and shout and scream…(because) the only way we’re going to get anything resolved on this is to make such a fuss that the government and local MPs, who have been been noticeably reticent in coming forward, to start waving the banner with us,” Coun Webber said.

“Make people realise that they’re not going to have any facilities.”

Coun Michael Harrison, the county’s executive member for health and adult services, said the situation was a “classic example of acute care versus community care”.

He said there will “always be a balance between where are the acute beds for people with the greatest needs” and community based care, “which if used correctly, would reduce the need for acute care in the first place”.

Chair of North Yorkshire’s Scrutiny of Health Committee, Coun Jim Clark, said happiness about the “great triumph” of securing funding for a Harrogate facility had given way to sadness for patients and their families who will now miss out on a local in-patient service.

“I’ve been working on this for quite a number of years and it was a great triumph for us to get an investment for a new hospital and acute beds,” Coun Clark said.

He added that the ‘pausing’ of the Harrogate facility was the latest in “decades” worth of underfunding for mental health in the district.

“This is not a recent problem, this is the result of years, decades of underinvestment in mental health,” he said.

“Mental health has once again missed out and that is wrong and I feel particularly sad that we built up people’s hopes.

“It was going to be state of the art stuff and now we’re back to square one.”

The health scrutiny chair said he already knew of one Harrogate person who had been sent to Scarborough for mental health treatment – a situation he called “clearly unacceptable”.

However, he said there was room to be “optimistic”, with a joint scrutiny committee with councillors from York and Leeds “getting on board” the issue, which he was confident could lead to a better result.

While that joint scrutiny committee will be suspended as elections for York and Leeds occur in May, he said when it is reformed “there will be serious questions to be answered”.