A MUM has told her children not to call the mental health crisis team over fears she will be taken away by police.

Mental health campaigner Ann Mooney, who suffers from epilepsy, schizophrenic episodes and a personality disorder, spoke out following the temporary closure of the mental health place of safety suite in Swindon.

She fears that because of the closure, if she had an episode, she could end up in a police cell.

Sandalwood Court in Stratton is one of two in Wiltshire that has been shut. Patients suffering mental health crises are now taken to Green Lane Hospital in Devizes, operated by Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust.

Ann, former chairman of patient group SUNS, said: “Closing our place of safety is disgraceful. It’s bad enough being very unwell and being taken away from our loved ones but at least being in Swindon they can still visit us. The worst part is they're treating us like criminals, not people who are unwell.

“If they are struggling now how will they cope having more to do taking us to Devizes?

“I’ve already made my family promise me if I get really unwell not to call the crisis team due to the fact I’m so scared that I will be taken away by the police and taken to a strange place.

“AWP needs to start asking service users what we want.”

The one-bed Swindon place of safety suite was closed on  March 26, with NHS chiefs saying it will remain shut for a year.

AWP says that the closure of the Swindon and Salisbury places of safety is necessary. Changes to the law mean that doctors have just 24 hours to assess people held under section 136 of the Mental Health Act, down from 72 hours previously.

The Care Quality Commission has said that further improvements are needed in AWP’s places of safety.

But campaigners remain unconvinced and a petition against the closures has won 300 signatures.

Samantha Wathen of Keep Our NHS Public Swindon said: “It is ill conceived for AWP to close this unit and there is genuine concern over it re-opening after the pilot.”

Labour’s North Swindon parliamentary candidate Kate Linnegar, who helped organise the petition, linked the place of safety closure to government spending cuts: “It is ridiculous that in a town of this size, people in severe distress should have to be taken in an ambulance or police car, 45 minutes to Devizes for an assessment.”

Swindon MPs Robert Buckland and Justin Tomlinson have both previously objected to the Swindon place of safety closure.

In a joint statement, Swindon CCG’s Paul Vater and AWP director of operations Matthew Page said the closure would allow them to address improvements demanded by the CQC.

They said: “During the period of temporary reallocation, engagement will be undertaken with the population of Swindon and individuals using the service. This will then lead to recommendations to NHS England and NHS Improvement.

“If people have any comments/views they would like to share about the temporary closure of the Swindon Place of Safety Suite please email:communications@swindonccg.nhs.uk or awp.communications@nhs.net.”

To sign the petition, visit: www.change.org/p/swindon-ccg-clinical-commissiioning-keep-a-mental-health-place-of-safety-open-in-swindon