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Hackney mental health nurse anxious about NHS reform after "brutal" cuts mean service is already stretched

PUBLISHED: 12:37 15 November 2012

Staff from the mental health service in Hackney joined the TUC march last month, to protest against NHS reform

Staff from the mental health service in Hackney joined the TUC march last month, to protest against NHS reform

Archant

»A children's mental health nurse has expressed fears over the effects of privatisation through NHS reform after witnessing first hand the damage that cuts have already made to services.

In April 2011 the child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) in Hackney had to slash 25 per cent of its budget when a ring-fenced government grant ceased, meaning the core team of staff was reduced.

‘Risk’

One nurse from Hackney has chosen to speak anonymously to the Gazette, to expose the effect the “brutal behind the scenes” cuts have had.

“There’s always a risk of people harming themselves or others, no amount of resources can eliminate that risk, but when there are fewer resources the risk is increased,” the nurse said.

“Nationally there have been increased levels of mental health difficulties since the recession and we’ve certainly had an increase in referrals.

“But staff now have higher case loads so patients may see us less often.

“I think we are already stretched in terms of meeting the needs of the patients being referred to our service.”

The nurse added: “I worry that people will suffer with their mental health difficulties and that we aren’t now able to reach some of the harder to reach families.”

Bronwen Handyside, who is leading a campaign against NHS reform in Hackney, added: “Cuts are being made to services like these because the cost in damage to human beings only plays out later in terms of ruined lives, substance abuse, jail sentences and people never reaching their full potential.”

The nurse, who spoke to the Gazette, is now anxious about the effects the Health and Social Care Act, which has been passed as legislation, may have on the service.

Under the act, a group of clinicians led by local GPs will make decisions about health services in their area under the guise of clinical commissioning groups (CCG).

Any NHS service can be put out to tender and there is the possibility services and staff could be transferred over to private companies, like Virgin and Care UK.

“Absolutely, there will be a worse standard of care,” said the nurse.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said: “We have always been clear that whenever and however competition is used in the NHS, it must always be in the interests of patients, based on quality not price.”

‘Responsibilities’

She added that mental health issues are treated as seriously as physical complaints, and that the department is investing more than £50m in Children and Young People’s Improving Access to Psychological Therapies, which will benefit patients in Hackney.

A spokeswoman from NHS North East London and the City added: “The CCG’s draft constitution proposes that it would commission services ‘only from providers who can demonstrate a commitment to their social responsibilities and sustainability principles’.”

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