A Bedford pensioner is currently enduring a 140-mile round trip to visit his wife who is being cared for in East London as there are no suitable mental health inpatient beds in Bedfordshire.
The case highlights the terrible plight of mental health patients and their families in Bedford since the inpatient facility at Bedford Hospital’s Weller Wing was closed in 2017.
Paul Saxby had been travelling by train to the Rosebank Ward in Mile End until the extent of the coronavirus pandemic meant that train travel was too risky.
Since then, he’s driven the 140 miles to East London and back regularly, to ensure that his wife has food that she likes and can see a friendly face.
Paul told the Bedford Independent that ‘he’d crawl there if he had to’ and asked, “Do people with mental health matter in this Borough?”
Mohammad Yasin, MP for Bedford and Kempston said, “Whilst I cannot comment on specific cases, I can assure residents of Bedford and Kempston that my staff and I look into all cases raised with me, and also of my long-standing concern about the lack of inpatient mental health beds in the town following the closure of the Weller Wing at Bedford Hospital in 2017, and within my manifesto during the last General Election I committed to push for the return of these facilities to Bedford if re-elected.
“I have the greatest sympathy for all patients who, since 2017, have been looked after in facilities in other parts of Bedfordshire and beyond to receive mental health inpatient care, and I understand how disconcerting this can be for patients who find themselves far away from home, and the many pressures this puts on their loved ones.
“I know these pressures have been greater still through the current Covid-19 crisis.”
In his statement to the Bedford Independent, Mr Yasin revealed that plans are underway to reinstate inpatient services in Bedford.
“With East London NHS Foundation Trust (ELFT), we have identified a preferred site for the new Bedfordshire inpatient services in the town of Bedford and are progressing this option; we are working hard to secure this site, and are in continued dialogue with the current landowner, as well as the Local Authority and Health Care partners, and discussions are progressing well.
“We are now moving into the formal process to effect the transfer of the land and buildings, we will be appointing an architect when contracts have been formalised and will subsequently tender the works in line with NHS procurement processes.
“We have established an Executive Programme Board to oversee the project development which is now meeting fortnightly, this comprises of senior Bedfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group and ELFT representatives, and will build upon the principles established at the Bedfordshire inpatient workshop held on 31 January, and seek to plan future inpatient need, based on activity, forecast growth in population and the wider services, such as crisis support.”
Unfortunately, even with the return of mental health inpatient facilities to Bedford, not every mental health patient would be able to receive care locally.
As with any medical condition, mental or physical, inevitably there will always remain a small number of patients requiring specialist care that can only be provided outside of the area, where the small numbers requiring such services locally can’t justify their provision.
Mr Yasin said, “It is important that where this must happen, support is in place for their loved ones in managing the costs and logistics of visits, and I will continue to listen to constituents’ concerns.”
A spokesperson for the East London NHS Foundation Trust said, “Bedfordshire Mental Health services always try to admit people to a unit close to where they live.
“If this is not possible, we will admit someone to another unit in the Trust where the treatment, management and quality of care will be consistent.
“Sometimes, when someone needs specialist care, they may be admitted to a specific ward initially and then transferred back to a local facility as soon as possible.
“We cannot provide details about any individual but are happy to enter into a discussion with any family who has concerns about the care of a family member.”