Stratton mental health crisis centre facing a crisis of its own

This Is Wiltshire: Oak Lodge lead worker Paula Wyatt, front, with, frmo left, Suzanne Baxter, Stephanie Holt, Helen Baker, Dave Morgan, Lorna Tombs, Bridget Mwanckhu and Linda People Oak Lodge lead worker Paula Wyatt, front, with, frmo left, Suzanne Baxter, Stephanie Holt, Helen Baker, Dave Morgan, Lorna Tombs, Bridget Mwanckhu and Linda People

A CRISIS service for people with mental health problems is facing a crisis of its own.

The Crisis House, based at Oak Lodge in Sandalwood Court, Stratton, was opened six years ago by television presenter and model Melinda Messenger.

It is run by voluntary organisation Swindon Mind and Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership and commissioned by NHS Swindon.

However, AWP has advised NHS Swindon that the space the Crisis House occupies is now needed for its own services, which will move in in April 2013.

This week, Swindon Mind CEO Mark Smyth, who says decisions have been made without any consultation with service users, met with AWP, and is now hoping that the Crisis House will be put on the top of their agenda and a solution will be found to prevent the town losing it for good.

It is thought the move may be part of AWP’s restructuring after the NHS South of England Patient Safety and Care Standards Committee observed the AWP culture to be ‘centralist, top down, and target driven, bureaucratic and controlling’.

Mr Smyth said: “I have met with the chief executive of AWP and he recognises that this has been handled badly and is going to come back to me on the situation.”

In the past couple of years, the Crisis House has helped more than 200 people who have passed through its doors. It consists of a five bedded unit where people have the opportunity to stay for two weeks while staff spend time with them to find solutions to their anxiety.

Mr Smyth said: “It is completely unique in Swindon so we are really hoping that something can be done and that it is saved.

“The great thing about it is that it is a non-medicalised environment and it is a really good step down from acute intensive care and helps people on the road to recovery.

“It is a lifeline for many, an absolutely Godsend and I will do everything I can to bring it higher on the agenda for AWP. At the moment I feel like it is being dusted under the carpet.”

Mr Smyth has even been invited to address an All Party Parliamentary Group on Mental Health – Crisis Care at the House of Commons later this month, to share with MP’s the service that the Crisis House offers people in Swindon.

He said: “This is a fantastic opportunity to share good and innovative practice, but unfortunately this very service is in jeopardy.”

Andrea Philips, who has turned to the crisis house for support more than once, said the service is vital for Swindon and has recently become a Swindon Mind trustee.

“My stays in the Crisis House have helped save my life on more than one occassion,” she said.

“The staff are extremely warm and supporting, they are very special people, always there to listen and advise and make helpful suggestions.

“The Crisis House truly turns people’s lives around, it has bought my life back from desperation and mental health recovery. It has been a Godsend to me throughout its six years.”

Swindon South MP Robert Buckland said: “I would urge AWP and the commissioners to make sure they are working urgently with Swindon Mind to maintain what is a very important service. I’m concerned decisions are being made here without proper communication and consultation.

“I would urge them to do all they can to keep Mind involved and make sure the crisis provision is maintained. It may be that they have to move, but they need to be part of the decision making.”

A spokesperson for AWP said: “AWP has happily accommodated Swindon Mind at Sandalwood Court. We advised Swindon PCT, which commissions the crisis house, earlier this year that we now needed the space for our own services, which will move to Sandalwood Court in April 2013.”

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