Tuesday, 01 December 2015

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Four 'places of safety' for Cumbria's young people

A new map has revealed Cumbria has four health-based “places of safety” for young people – an improvement on many parts of the country.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has published the map to highlight “worrying restrictions” for young people experiencing a mental health crisis in their access to such places.

People who have been detained by the police under Section 136 of the Mental Health Act must be taken immediately to a safe place where a mental health assessment can be undertaken.

This should be a ‘health-based place of safety’, located in a mental health hospital or an emergency department at a general hospital. They should only be taken to a police station in exceptional circumstances.

Concerns have been raised that there are only 161 such places of safety in England, with seven NHS mental health trusts and two community interest companies restricting the access for young people aged 16 and 17 at all of their places of safety.

In Cumbria, there are four places for people in crisis, all of which are open 24-hours-a-day with no restrictions. A spokeswoman for Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, which is responsible for the county’s mental health services, said: “We have four sites in Cumbria which are all based at our mental health in-patient units. All of the sites are run in accordance with national guidelines and are subject to audit and review.

“We remain committed to providing the highest standards in health care for all our patients.”

Dr Paul Lelliott, the CQC’s deputy chief inspector of hospitals and lead for mental health, said: “We undertook this work because the Home Secretary expressed concern in May last year about the number of people who found themselves inappropriately taken to police stations during a mental health crisis.

“We too are worried about what appears to be the routine use of police custody as a place of safety.

“We are particularly worried about the number of young people affected and the fact that so many areas are not served by a health-based place of safety that will accept a young person who is experiencing a mental health crisis.”

A spokeswoman for the CQC said she was unable to comment on whether four was an adequate number of safe places, but added: “To have four places where they are open 24-hours-a-day, 365 days a year without restrictions is better than in many areas.”

There are four places of safety serving Cumbria local authority:

  • Hadrian Unit, Carleton Clinic, Cumwhinton Drive, Carlisle 01228 602000;
  • Yewdale Ward, West Cumberland Hospital, Homewood Road, Hesingham, Whitehaven 01946 64127;
  • Dova Unit, Dane Garth, Furness General Hospital, Dalton Lane, Barrow in Furness 01229 404351;
  • Kentmere, Westmorland General Hospital, Burton Road, Kendal 01539 716711.

Information correct as at March 31, 2014.


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