The opening of a new ‘central place of safety’ for mental-health-crisis patients has been postponed to autumn, after the project was “called-in” by four south London borough councils.
Completion of the new facility at Maudsley Hospital has been stalled while plans are scrutinised by a joint health-scrutiny committee of councillors from Southwark, Lewisham, Lambeth and Croydon. Plans for the new 24/7 facility followed disclosures from the Met Police that an alarming number of patients were being detained in cells due to a lack of space in London’s psychiatric wards.
The new place of safety will include specialist accommodation for six patients at a time, whilst serving all four boroughs. It will replace the current system, in which each of the four boroughs has its own separate place of safety, with space for only one patient.
However the News understands that South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust (SLaM) ordered this new facility to be built in late 2015, without consulting the four councils.
Committee member and East Walworth ward councillor Rebecca Lury said: “We called it in in March to ask them for their plans on a few issues which we [Southwark, Lewisham, Lambeth and Croydon councils] hadn’t been told about.
“They had not devised a plan on who would pay for the costs of transporting patients to the boroughs or how this was going to be staffed and how patients would be looked after and how this facility would be suitable for children as we as adults.”
Representatives from the Trust were asked by the committee of councillors in April to present fully formed plans to them at a meeting which is expected to take place in late September or October. Although not completed, the trust’s staff have been offering tours of the new place of safety to consultees, including members of the Southwark Pensioners’ Action Group.
A SLaM spokesman said the aim of the “purpose built” 24/7 facility at Maudsley was to ensure that mental health assessments were: “carried out speedily and by a team with specific expertise in the field, and that the environment in which people are received is modern, welcoming and fit for purpose for all ages including children and young people”.
“Subject to the proposals being approved by the joint health scrutiny committee and the Trust’s Board in September and October, we are hoping to open the new suite later in the autumn,” the spokesman said. “We took our proposals to the joint health scrutiny committee in April this year. They acknowledged the work we had done so far and asked the Trust to engage further with local authorities, patients and patient groups.”