Letters: Deborah Holman, May 6, 2016

March For Mental Health. Campaigners marching through King's Lynn's Town Centre protesting. ANL-160423-154345009
March For Mental Health. Campaigners marching through King's Lynn's Town Centre protesting. ANL-160423-154345009
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I would like to urge readers to adopt a green lapel ribbon, to very visibly show your support for mental health services in West Norfolk.

It is vital that the Fermoy Unit not only remains open but that it also increases the number of beds available. Fifteen beds are not enough. Sending patients to other hospitals is not the solution. Indeed, the idea of sending patients to Norwich is totally unrealistic when that hospital is also sending patients in their hundreds to other hospitals and private institutions across the country. There is a definite and continuing need for good mental healthcare here. Removing it or reducing it to such an extent that it is not fit for purpose is wrong. Under-investing in mental health so that lives are put at risk is wrong. Cutting back on community provision is wrong. When a community service is working and preventing people from becoming so ill they need hospital admission, why cut it?

The answer seems to be that there isn’t the funding available. This beggars belief when you consider how much it must cost to transport patients across the country, sometimes to private institutions, and also how much could be saved on the costs of admission with the proper funding of good, preventative, community solutions. That is why dozens of us felt it necessary to “march for mental health” recently to highlight the gross inequalities experienced by mental health patients, service users and their families. It must be a nightmare situation for healthcare staff, too; particularly GPs at the sharp end, having to explain to patients why they cannot be seen for months.

West Norfolk is a growing area with major housing developments springing up. More people means more pressure on services and, with one in four of us suffering a mental health illness in our lifetime – with knock-on effects for the family and workplace – the need for good quality mental health services and hospital care is not going to reduce. The commissioning bodies responsible need to get round the table and find a solution. To help them get it right, I would recommend attendance at those bodies’ public meetings, writing to decision-makers, signing our petition, and joining in with protests at this unjust and damaging treatment of those with mental health needs. In all of this, wear a green ribbon on your lapel to make visible your solidarity and support for good mental health services in our community, which includes proper investment in the Fermoy Unit.

I can supply ready-made lapel ribbons free for groups if you would like to contact me at deborahholman@live.co.uk.

If you want to make a donation, make it to a mental health charity.

Dr Deborah Holman

Chair of the North West Norfolk Constituency Labour Party