“No ifs, no buts. No mental health cuts” was the message to health bosses during a protest march in Lynn today.
Dozens of demonstrators marched through the Walks and around the town centre this lunchtime before holding a rally near the Majestic cinema.
The protest was organised following mental health chiefs’ decision earlier this month to close the Fermoy unit to new admissions.
Although the move has since been reversed, and managers insist they have no plans to close the unit, protest organisers maintain its future is still under threat.
And a petition has now been launched demanding a properly funded mental health unit in Lynn.
Protest organiser Jo Rust said the Fermoy unit was originally built to accommodate 96 beds, more than six times the number currently in use there.
She said: “Our population has grown, so why are they cutting the beds?
“They’re saying there is more help in the community. There isn’t and it’s an appalling situation for people to be in.”
Beth Anthony, the North West Norfolk Labour party’s youth officer, said her 15-year-old brother was forced to travel to London once a month because the treatment he needs is not available locally.
And Peter Smith, who contested the South West Norfolk seat for Labour at last year’s general election, described the government’s handling of the NHS as “immoral” and “evil.”
He warned that protests would have to continue in order to safeguard services for the future and urged the crowd to lobby MPs, councillors and health chiefs for change.
Officials from the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, the body which runs the Fermoy unit, have previously said they reversed the decision not to admit new patients following “positive” talks with local health commissioners.
And they say they are working with the West Norfolk clinical commissioning group (CCG) to arrange a series of engagement workshops in an effort to find a longer term solution to meet patient demand.
But, in a message of support read by Mrs Rust during the rally, county councillor Emma Corlett claimed the West Norfolk group was spending the lowest proportion of cash on mental health services of any of the CCGs in the county.
She said the West Norfolk CCG allocated less than eight per cent of the money it spends to mental health services, compared to the 23 per cent of NHS use that is made up of mental health cases.
There were cries of “Shame” as the figure was read.
Miss Corlett said more people were being driven into crisis by cuts in community support and described it as “unthinkable” that the unit’s beds could be cut too.
She added: “People needing urgent physical health treatment would not be treated in this way, so why are those with mental health conditions forced to suffer?”