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By Jennifer Taylor ...
By Jennifer Taylor

A proposal to close a south London walk-in emergency clinic for people with mental health problems has been referred to the health secretary by local councils.

Closure of the emergency clinic at the Maudsley Hospital was among proposals to reconfigure local mental health crisis care services.

South London and Maudsley trust's original plan was to 'reconfigure' the clinic into a five-bed clinical decision unit and withdraw the drop-in component. But a subsequent withdrawal of£8m by Lambeth and Southwark primary care trusts prompted the trust to decide to close the service completely.

The emergency clinic is the only 24-hour self-referral service of its kind in the UK and has been open since the 1950s.

Lambeth and Southwark LBCs formed a joint committee to respond to the original proposals.

In its final report, the committee said it 'did not have sufficient confidence' in other elements of the crisis care system to support the loss of the walk-in clinic.

And it was not satisfied that withdrawal of the clinic was in the interests of local people.

In a letter to Patricia Hewitt, the committee said 'local resolution is not achievable' and it was referring the matter 'on the grounds that the proposal for change is not in the interests of the local health service'.

Lambeth councillor Angie Meader, chair of Lambeth and Southwark joint health scrutiny committee, said: 'In an ideal world, I would hope the secretary of state and the government would realise how important mental health services are and stop using them as a means to fund more popular services.'

Ms Meader, whose son suffers from bi-polar disorder, and is a carer, added that the trust had failed to consult adequately on the proposals. She said: 'Service user groups have had to proactively look for information in order to give feedback.'

Southwark Mind co-ordinator Teresa Priest said people used the emergency clinic when they were most in crisis. She said: 'Our main concern is this closure would cost people their lives.'

Ms Priest added that the alternatives were not suitable. She said: 'If this service closes, the only alternative will be large accident and emergency departments, which we don't think are safe or appropriate.'

A trust spokesperson said: 'This is part of improving the provision of crisis care for people with mental health problems. The emergency clinic is a very outdated model of healthcare. We think there are better ways of providing emergency care.'

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