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photo of St Bernard's Gate, covered in ivy

Photo of St Bernard's Gate by Joe Kelly

Can we trust the Trust? The changing landscape of welfare reform!

Serious questions are beginning to emerge about future healthcare for people with Mental Health difficulties in West London. The under-performing West London Mental Health Trust, severely criticised in the recent Care Quality Commission Reports, is probably to be merged with the Central and North West NHS Foundation Trust or another Trust? An alternative plan of action is unfolding as various serious problems emerge. The West London Mental Health Trust as Chief Executive Peter Cubbons, who is now on long-term sick leave, is due to step down together with two of his main Senior Managers leaving the WLMH Trust.

Coalition Government NHS reforms are becoming evident; testing the good sense of local people in Ealing, Hammersmith and Hounslow, which is the catchment area of the Trust. In particular the John Conolly Wing, serving the ordinary mental health patients is to be demolished as part of a rebuilding programme for the benefit of forensic service. The forensic service is a separate service for the mental health patients who have been sentenced by the law courts. The John Conolly unit has recently been refurbished costing £6 million. This is a massive waste of public money and resources.

Nearby some of the old St Bernards Victorian Buildings, which are of heritage quality such as the WLMH Trust HQ, The St Bernard’s Church with its and Magnolia Lodge are to be asset stripped and sold off as residential dwellings no longer serving the Ealing public. I noticed that the ornamental ironwork disappeared without mention sometime ago. A foreboding of things to come. Many of the remaining buildings are to be demolished for redevelopment.

Service users have had no opportunity to input or participate in this process. As a service user survivor we often feel the need to show good faith, from today I think those in authority need to show good faith to the service users? These acts, and the lock of openness, are a demonstration of the breaking trust between the authorities the patients.

Some years ago in another merger Broadmoor Hospital was merged with St Bernard’s Hospital. Medium secure forensic patients are helped on the St Bernards site. If you visit the rear of the site you will see the various buildings with high fences and CCTV.

Now the Broadmoor forensic service seems to be the dominant partner in this partnership. Consequently ordinary, non-forensic, mental health patients are loosing out. The Broadmoor take over of the site is a trend that is hard to understand or know the full story? This is a massive unexpected change, which highlight important policy changes not being shared with the public.

The Trust is to become a Foundation Trust in 2013. In order to accomplish this the Trust needs to sign up 1200 members, recruit more support from users and carers. Being disproportionately forensic to mainstream mental health is a legislative barrier that is to be changed by The Government in a new round of new laws in 2013.

Those who know the site will know that Ealing Hospital [The General Hospital, non psychiatric] also uses the eastern end of the site. Ealing Hospital is also under threat? [See earlier Blog]

Originally the whole site was much bigger but in the Thatcher period half the then site was sold for housing. Many of the Victorian buildings becoming very desirable period dwellings. The Green spaces between the old ward blocks providing space for sympathetic modern infill buildings.

The value of the land and the building was massive amount to the public exchequer, but no one ever the people what the sum was? As a patient, many years ago I found the green spaces therapeutic and calming for my health. The therapeutic value of green open spaces is now well recognised by groups such as MIND.

The horrible fiasco only highlights how the mental health service are plundered and abused by those in power for their own purposes. Land values in Ealing are extremely high and the community is very short of good sites to serve the local people. If you look on Google Earth you’ll notice the adjoining land is Warren Farm. This was once the farm for the Old Middlesex Asylum. The earlier name for St Bernard’s. This land grab asset stripping process is not new.

Anxiety about NHS reforms is much in evidence in the country. The NHS is an Institution that is seriously valued by British People. Prime Minister David Cameron reassured us, when elected, that the NHS was safe in his hands, our anxieties have been justified

I would advise people in Ealing, Hounslow and Hammersmith to contact their MP, GLA rep, Local Ward Councillor about the issues raised in this blog, and appeal to fellow user survivors to work through their local groups. NSUN [National Survivor User Network]  run the network for London.

Posted by Colin Hambrook, 24 February 2012

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 28 February 2012