Fears raised over mental healthcare cuts in East Devon

PUBLISHED: 16:00 24 May 2017 | UPDATED: 09:12 30 May 2017

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Retired mental health nurse Heather Penwarden said charity Mind had been forced to end its provision in Honiton and support at home was not going to be provided.

Fears have been voiced about mental healthcare cuts in East Devon amid claims residents are forced to travel into Exeter at their most vulnerable.

Retired mental health nurse Heather Penwarden said charity Mind had been forced to end its provision in Honiton and support at home was not going to be provided.

She told East Devon District Council’s scrutiny committee this would leave many without the long-term support they need, and new referrals have also been made more difficult.

Speaking at this month’s meeting, Mrs Penwarden, who set up the Honiton Dementia Alliance and the town’s memory café, said: “Long-term support seems to be not happening any more.

“They are targeting their approach at short-term intervention. There are many people out there who would love to return to independence but who need support of some form or another. They will fall through the net.

“My experience of working with people with conditions like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder is that one thing that helps is social contact – feeling like you belong in the community. These drop-in centres really did provide that.”

Scrutiny committee members voted to express their ‘deep regret’ that the services had been closed before alternatives had been identified, and that it will result in more pressure elsewhere.

A spokesman for Devon County Council, which owns the property Mind used in Honiton, said: “We have changed the way we fund mental health services to target resources on people that need it most and to help them recover and return to independence. But we’re also making some money available for open access services in the community.”

A spokesman for the Devon Partnership NHS Trust said it is now conducting multi-disciplinary assessments from clinics in Torbay, Exeter and Barnstaple, and some follow-up care and treatment is also offered in these locations.

He added: “However, we are very much aware of the need to have local services and much of what we do is still carried out in communities right across Devon – close to where people live. If people are unable to travel, we will provide their care in a place that suits them.”

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