Diary of a Sutton Councillor

Thursday 15th October 2009 7.30pm

Health and Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee

This agenda continued the scrutiny of mental health services in the borough and in particular looked at the results of the Health and Social Care Advisory Service (HASCAS) safety review of inpatient services at the Sutton site and the recent closure of Chiltern Wing following the Legionella outbreak there.

The meeting began with an update on the transportation of residents detained under s136 of the Mental Health Act 1983. This issue had been raised by Police representatives at an earlier meeting who advised that with the closure of the s136 unit at Sutton the longer journey to Tadworth was proving to be a problem tying up police officers excessively and was inappropriate for residents suspected to be suffering from mental health problems to be transported in the secure police vans.

Scrutiny had uncovered that recommended practice was to have such residents transported by ambulance and the committee had recommended that representatives from the police, ambulance and mental health services meet to establish a way forward.

The committee received a report stating that such meetings had taken place and a protocol for the transportation of residents detained under s136 had been agreed. The protocols were established for low, medium and high risk cases and lines of communication established to ensure good management of facilities.

Questions from members established that a training programme to help police officers identify when a resident was likely to be suffering from mental health issues was being set up by the Mental Health Trust.

The HASCAS Review flagged up a number of significant concerns about the provision of inpatient mental health acute services at the Sutton Hospital site. The review found that the desire to have a small local site had led to compromises over the standards of care that should be available to mental health inpatients. Of 89 standards used in the review proforma the Sutton site met only 25. The review stated that whilst no major incidents had occurred at the hospital there was high potential for such an incident to happen.

The report also addressed specific aspects of each of the wards citing some of the wards as offering little in the form of a therapeutic environment or activities. The site itself was also seen to present security issues.

The review recommended a number of specific actions that should be taken to improve the site and patients’ experiences including liaising with police over site security and drafting contingency plans.

During questions I noted that the report mentioned the underinvestment in mental health services and I asked whether this had contributed to the lack of adequate service provision at the site. The response from Bill Gillespie, Chief Executive of the Sutton and Merton PCT was that the report should not be treated like a bible with individual items picked out for particular interpretation.

The report on the closure of the Chiltern Wing due to the discovery of high levels of Legionella during routine testing put a slightly different slant on the HASCAS review. Questions from members were concerned with whether it was the intention of the Trust to make the closure permanent with the chair of the committee stating that he felt the discovery of Legionella following the HASCAS review to be rather convenient.

The committee also received a paper on the changes to commissioning policy for In Vitro Fertilisation Treatment (IVF). The committee agreed that the changes were a matter of offering treatment more effectively and so felt that it was not a significant variation in service requiring consultation.

The committee expressed dissatisfaction with the paper given explaining the recent recall of a number of patients for re-screening under the National Screening Programme for diabetic retinopathy. I sought more information about what actually had gone wrong and received fairly general information about communication issues between services.


November 9, 2009 - Posted by | Committee Meeting

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