Thursday, 6 November 2014

Is the decision to close the Unit to women vulnerable to a judicial review?

One of our supporters thinks this may be the case, as they raise it in a letter to Heather Tierney-Moore, Chief Exec of Lancashire Care NHS Trust.  The full letter is below.

Ms Heather Tierney-Moore, Chief Executive,
Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust,
Sceptre Point,
Sceptre Way, Walton Summit,

Dear Ms Tierney-Moore

Re The Orchard Unit

I do not make a habit of writing to complete strangers at the other end of the country to complain, but I am writing at the prompting of my sister. She has been a patient on several occasions in the old Ridge Lea Hospital and may well need a bed in the future.

As I understand it, the new Orchard Unit has been made exclusively male suddenly and without consulting with the public or service users. If so, I would note that this decision is of dubious legality and may be vulnerable to judicial review.

The account given is that there is a pressing need for beds for male patients and women are being excluded on the grounds that they are vulnerable to the male patients in such an environment. If this is so then I believe that the decision is entirely the wrong way round; the vulnerable patients need to be protected and if, in an extreme case, the men (in general) are liable to prey on women then it is the issue of the male patients that needs to be addressed. To exclude women is to punish the vulnerable, surely?

There is clearly a need for more beds for the mentally ill in the Preston Area as there is such competition for the beds and maybe the closure of Ridge Lea should have been preceded by an analysis of future needs and the level of peak demand (NOT average demand, as this will always fall well short of actual need). I can appreciate that in an era of budget pressures (and when were there not such pressures?) providing beds is always difficult, but I believe the recent political statements reveal by the targets being introduced for mental health treatment, there is more political will to improve mental health treatment than for many years. It surely ill behoves a chief executive to follow a policy that seemingly reduces the capacity let alone the quality of care. I believe it may well be that The Orchard Unit needs a companion unit for female patients and probably larger and preferably in advance of provision for male patients.

I worked as a chief officer in the Probation Service for many years. My experience is that men do not present with as many mental health issues as women but they have almost an exclusive hold on severe personality disorders. If the rise in male patient numbers is in any way a reflection of this I would strongly suggest that they are not amenable to treatment, that they will remain in your care for as long as they can manage it to avoid the courts/prisons and will likely pose a major threat to staff, other patients and themselves. It is not sensible, in my view, to have such people in contact with the generally mentally ill, and especially if those mentally ill people are in any way vulnerable (which they surely would be) and women.

I look forward to your comments.

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