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Minister’s letter suggests closure of psychiatric hospital is ‘done deal’

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Ministers plan to close a specialist psychiatric hospital in London, regardless of the outcome of a public consultation on its future, a letter seen by NT has revealed.

In the letter, junior health minister Ivan Lewis suggested that the closure of the Henderson Hospital in Sutton was a done deal.

There was ‘no high-quality evidence’ to support continuing the existence of the hospital, he said in the letter to Croydon South MP Richard Ottaway.

He went on to imply that the decision to close the hospital had already been taken – even though a public consultation is due to begin officially in May.

‘It has been decided to merge the Henderson’s present service with that provided at the Cassel Hospital in Richmond,’ he wrote.

South West London and St George’s Mental Health Trust had previously announced that the hospital would close this month because of a lack of referrals (NT News, 8 January, p4).

However, the plans were put on hold because they had been decided without a consultation taking place.

At a public meeting last month at the House of Commons to discuss the issue, nurses accused Mr Lewis of failing to understand mental health and its treatment.

Anne Weir, a charge nurse at Henderson, said: ‘I am appalled. Ivan Lewis wants the problem to go away.

‘But we are trying to make a difference with [people’s] problems, rather than trying to lock them away and hoping they will go away.’

The Department of Health declined to comment on the issue. However, a statement from the London strategic health authority said PCTs were working to agree an appropriate consultation programme before any decisions were made about the future of services by the Henderson.

The hospital received a further blow late last month after it was refused national specialist commissioning status by DH advisers. This would have meant referrals from across England and therefore more revenue.

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