Fight goes on to keep mental health ward

DEMONSTRATORS protesting at the closure of St Andrews Ward in Wells have been back on the streets to make their voices heard and gather more public support for their campaign.

The relocation of the 14 mental health ward beds from the Priory Health Park site to Yeovil was approved by the Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group nearly three years ago.

The move has been delayed several times, and is now expected to take place later this year. But campaigners have not given up hope of persuading the new Somerset Integrated Care Board (ICB) to reverse the decision.

They were in Wells Market Place for a demonstration on April 12 with placards, leaflets, and postcards for members of the public to sign.

“We are calling upon the ICB to overturn the decision to close this ward as we are in a different world from the one in which the decision was made,” said Emma King.

“The removal of this ward will have a devastating impact on the population in the Mendip area, and at a time when people are struggling with the effects of the pandemic and the cost of living crisis, when there are irrefutable links between mental ill health and financial hardship.

“We are all sick of our local services being removed and Wells has been hit hard already by the removal of public services such as the police station and banks. We cannot continue to allow this to happen.”

The campaigners were planning to raise the issue again at the Wells City Council meeting on April 27, and intend to hold another rally in Wells later in the year. A petition at calling for the ward to be saved now has more than 4,360 signatures.

A spokesperson for NHS Somerset ICB said: “It is important to clarify that the adult mental health inpatient beds at St Andrews Ward in Wells are relocating to Yeovil –

this is not a closure. There is no reduction in bed numbers, and the proposals will help us to provide safer and better quality care to people who need this level of mental health support across the whole of Somerset.

“At the Governing Body meeting on September 24, 2020, the proposal to relocate the 14 beds from Wells to Yeovil was formally agreed. During this meeting, no set date for the relocation was given. We anticipate the transfer will take place towards the end of 2023.Our commitment and decision to make the move as soon as it is safe to do so, remains the same.

“We will continue to work with service users, family, carers and friends to ensure they are part of the implementation of the proposal and remain informed and engaged with the process. As soon as we have further information, we will of course provide a more detailed update.”