Harriet Harman

Labour Member of Parliament for Camberwell & Peckham

The Emergency Department at Kings College Hospital

There are very few things more distressing than finding you, or a close friend or relative needs emergency psychiatric help. Our local community mental health teams – who go straight to see people in their own home – do a great job and have improved out of all recognition over the last few years. But it is still vital that when sudden mental illness strikes – or recurs – there is somewhere to go on an emergency basis. And it’s because of my concern about this that I want to use my Southwark News Column this month to ask for your views on the plans for mental health emergencies in the redesign of King’s College Hospital Accident and Emergency Department.

Until May 2007 there was a walk-in emergency department for people with mental health problems at the Maudsley Hospital on Denmark Hill. Despite the protests of me and the other Southwark and Lambeth MPs, Southwark MIND and Southwark Pensioners Action Group, the local health authority - Southwark Primary Care Trust - voted to close it. They argued that people needing emergency mental health care could get better services in the Kings A and E on the other side of the road from the Maudsley.

Many of my constituents - who have used the Maudsley Emergency Clinic over the years - contacted me at the time to protest but were promised that there would be new specialist services and that they would be better than those at the Maudsley.

The Health Minister told the House of Commons in February 2007 that she welcomed plans to “create a designated space at King’s College hospital...to provide a safe and segregated area for mental health service users requiring assessment”. That is what the local health authority promised when they asked the Health Department for permission to close the Maudsley Emergency clinic. Patients expected that is what they would get.

But when King’s published the plans last month there was no separate area for mental health patients.

All of us who protested about the plans for the closure of the Maudsley Emergency Clinic are expressing our concern about the new plans. Cubicles dotted around the main A and E and no separate reception areas is not “safe and segregated”.

King’s is currently consulting on these plans until 10th April. You can see the plans at www.kch.nhs.uk/edconsultation/ or you can call 020 3299 4618 to have your say or get more information.

If you want me to contact King’s College Hospital on your behalf please email me at harmanh@parliament.uk or write to me at the House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA.

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