Protesters gathered outside the Maudsley Hospital on Saturday to demand that the emergency clinic for people in mental health crisis be reopened.
There was huge public opposition to the closure of the Maudsley emergency clinic in 2007 because of a fear that the local A&E services would be overwhelmed and people in mental health crisis would have nowhere suitable to go.
A report reviewed by Southwark Council last year expressed concern that King’s Hospital had seen a 75 percent increase in the number of patients requiring mental health assessments since 2009 with 3,780 in the year 2013-2014.
After some significant delays, King’s told the News last year that it is now in the process of building a mental health assessment suite which will provide a separate space for mental health patients, but campaigners and cross-party politicians are calling for the specialist clinic to be reopened instead.
A 63-year-old recovering alcoholic, who wanted to remain anonymous, took part in the protest at the weekend and said the emergency clinic had saved her life.
“It was either go to the off licence or come here. If that hadn’t been available it probably would have been the off licence and I probably wouldn’t be here. It saved my life twice and I’m just one of many,” said the mother-of-one who has now been sober for nineteen years.
Tom White of the Southwark Pensioner’s Action Group, who has been leading the campaign to reopen the clinic since it was closed, said: “I defy anybody to go into King’s A&E and tell me that that is the right and proper place for someone in a mental health crisis. This is the right place for them, because they are the world’s experts here.”
A spokesperson from the South London and Maudsley NHS Trust (SLaM) said: “While we recognise that a busy A&E is not always the best environment for people in mental distress it is important to remember that many people attend A&E when they experience a mental crisis for the first time.
“At King’s College Hospital A&E our specialist psychiatric liaison team work 24 hours a day to ensure that people are referred to the most appropriate mental health service.
“Since the closure of the Maudsley emergency clinic by commissioners (following a lengthy consultation) nearly seven years ago SLaM has worked to strengthen the crisis response of our community mental health teams. We continue to work in partnership with local commissioners to ensure that those experiencing mental health crisis get the help they deserve.”