AN NHS consultation on plans to improve care for people suffering a mental health crisis has been launched.

Around 3,000 people in Kent and Medway with a serious mental health problem experience a crisis every year and need urgent treatment. A crisis is used to describe someone who may be experiencing delusions, hallucinations or be very distressed.

Most people who have a crisis prefer to be treated at home, supported by friends and family, and this has been shown to result in a quicker recovery. However others, particularly those with more complex needs and who are a danger to themselves or others, need to be treated in specialist hospital units.

NHS Kent and Medway, which plans and buys mental health services, and Kent and Medway NHS and Social Partnership Trust (KMPT), which provides crisis care for people at home and in hospital, have carried out a comprehensive review of services across Kent and Medway.

They have found there are not enough hospital beds in east Kent, unsuitable inpatient services in Medway and better psychiatric intensive outreach services are needed in east Kent.

As a result, the NHS wants to hear the public’s view on plans to:
• Treat people in three centres of excellence in Dartford, Maidstone and Canterbury. These will offer state-of-the art accommodation, with en suite rooms and improved access to consultant psychiatrists, nursing and therapy teams
• Increase the number of beds in east Kent, by converting the current Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit in Canterbury
• Expand the psychiatric intensive care outreach service, a specialist team which supports ward staff to prevent patient’s condition deteriorating, across the whole of Kent and Medway
• Consolidate the psychiatric intensive care beds into one unit in Dartford
• Invest £297,000 a year in additional Crisis Resolution Home Treatment (CRHT) staff from April 2013 to enable more patients to be treated at home.

These plans mean ‘A Block’ at Medway Maritime Hospital would no longer provide acute mental health hospital care. A Block was not designed for and is not suitable for 21st century mental health crisis care. There are poor sightlines for staff to observe the patients and only two single rooms. Each 16-bedded wards shares two bathrooms and most people sleep in bays with four or five beds, with only curtains to protect their privacy. There is also restricted access to outside space, and the difficult layout makes it difficult to restore calm after aggressive and violent incidents. The current economic climate makes it impossible to update the building or build new premises in Medway, as these solutions would cost between £7million and £13million.

People from Medway, Sittingbourne and Sheppey who need admission to hospital would be treated in one of the three centres of excellence instead – which all have single rooms, en suites and access to outdoor space.

People in Medway would access the centre in Dartford. However the NHS is consulting on three options for people in Sittingbourne and Sheppey at either Maidstone, Dartford or Canterbury, and two options for Swanley patients – either Dartford or Maidstone.

Dr Rosarii Harte, Assistant Medical Director for KMPT, said: “Over the last eight years, there has been a transformation of mental health services for seriously unwell people in Kent and Medway.

“Most people prefer and are able to be treated at home and this is by far the best option for many people. However when home treatment is not the best option – usually because there is a real risk to the patient or a lack of family support – access to high quality care on an inpatient unit is essential.”

Lauretta Kavanagh, Director of Commissioning of Mental Health and Substance Misuse Services for NHS Kent and Medway, said: “Research shows that for this group of seriously unwell people to get the best possible care, the environment and the staff are vitally important. There needs to be enough highly trained, expert, staff to provide a safe, flexible, resilient service with a full range of therapeutic interventions as well as modern, purpose-built accommodation that is comfortable, relaxed, safe and secure and preserves people’s dignity and respect. It is also vital that we have good Crisis Resolution and Home Treatment (CRHT) teams who can support people at home. This is exactly what we are striving to achieve with this review.
“We have drawn up our plans after speaking to service users, carers, mental health professionals, GPs and other interested parties. We want to know what you think of these proposals and the options for people from Sittingbourne, Sheppey and Swanley – as well as if there is anything else we should consider.

“Your views could help us make the best decisions about future services and care for people in a mental health crisis who need urgent treatment. To make sure you have your chance to influence this debate and help us to make the right decisions over these vital services, please take 10 minutes to read our information and respond to the consultation.”

Both the full consultation document and a summary, including a survey for people to give your views, can be read at or for a copy, please email or call 0800 085 6606 or 01227 791281.
You can also visit one of the six roadshows being held in Kent and Medway:
1. SWALE: 10 August, 1pm to 4pm, UK Paper Leisure Centre, Avenue of Remembrance, Sittingbourne.
2. MEDWAY: 4 September, 2pm to 5pm, Corn Exchange, Rochester.
3. WEST KENT: 18 September, 2 to 5pm, Maidstone Community Centre, Marsham Street, 39-48 Marsham Street, Maidstone.
4. SWANLEY: 28 September, 1pm to 4pm, Swanley Banqueting, Alexandra Suite, St Mary’s Road, Swanley.
5. MEDWAY: 2 October, 6pm to 9pm, The King Charles Hotel, Brompton Road, Gillingham.
6. EAST KENT: 4 October, 10am to 1pm, Norman House, Beaver Business Park, Beaver Road, Ashford.

The closing date for responses is 26 October 2012.