Harrogate's mental health beds to close in April - here's what happens next

Harrogate patients will soon have to travel to York for acute mental health care.
Harrogate patients will soon have to travel to York for acute mental health care.

Harrogate residents needing acute mental health care will have to travel to York from April, councillors have been told.

In an update to Harrogate's overview and scrutiny committee, Coun Nigel Middlemass said that Harrogate's mental health unit the Briary Wing is set to close "around" April 20.

Coun Middlemass, who sits on the North Yorkshire County Council Scrutiny of Health Committee, said it is around that time the new 72-bed mental health facility in York will open.

The move confirms that plans for a 36-bed facility at Harrogate's Cardale Park, intended as a direct replacement at the Briary Wing at Harrogate District Hospital, have been abandoned.

Coun Middlemass said that meant Harrogate residents "will have to travel to York rather than Harrogate to see relatives in a mental health ward" but the "upside is that it's a brand new facility and releases about half a million pounds" which will be used to treat mental health patients in the community in a bid to stop them requiring in-patient care.

"The logic of that is that it'll free up half a million pounds to prevent people from going to mental health facilities in the first place," he told councillors.

Despite the move being in the works for months, councillors still expressed their distaste for it, with Coun Victoria Oldham saying Harrogate not having an in-patient ward was "absolutely crazy".

Coun Pat Marsh also expressed concerns about how difficult it would be for Harrogate residents to get to York to visit patients.

Landscaping and entrance work had already begun at the proposed site at Cardale Park, when Harrogate and Rural District CCG and Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust voted to freeze the project.

They instead pursued a new a proposal which would see Harrogate patients sent to York for in-patient care, with a portion of funding to instead be directed to "community care" aimed at preventing residents from needing acute care in the first place.

Former chair of North Yorkshire’s Scrutiny of Health Committee, Coun Jim Clark, said earlier this year the abandoned project was the latest in "decades" worth of underfunding for mental health in the district.

Addressing a meeting of the Harrogate and Knaresborough Area Constituency Committee in March, Coun Clark said 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 told councillors at the time.

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

However Coun Michael Harrison, North Yorkshire County Council's executive member for health and adult services, said at the same meeting that community based care, if used correctly, "would reduce the need for acute care in the first place".

Lachlan Leeming, Local Democracy Reporter