COUNCILLORS are worried about how their residents will travel to mental health appointments if Macclesfield’s Millbrook Unit is closed.

NHS bodies in Cheshire are considering plans to close the only mental health inpatients unit in Cheshire East as part of a redesign that could leave either adult mental health patients or older people forced to travel to Chester for appointments.

The unit has been the only mental health inpatients unit in the borough for eight years after another was closed at Leighton Hospital, in Crewe.

While accepting that Millbrook is now ‘not fit for purpose’, Cllr Dorothy Flude, Labour, suggested that NHS bodies must look at how to increase mental health provision in the borough as soon as possible.

She told a Cheshire East Council scrutiny committee meeting on Thursday: “This is not the solution long-term to what we actually require.

“This is an interim measure. It should not be seen as the final measure for mental health services over here, and I want some guarantee that someone will be looking at what is the future for mental health services.

“This will not be fit for purpose in five years, I can assure you, because with a growing population, a growing population of elderly people, and the pressures people find – it is a growing problem, it is not a lessening problem.”

Cllr Flude added that transport issues had not been resolved when Leighton’s unit was closed down, and suggested this could take its toll on CEC’s social work teams.

“Many years ago we were looking at expanding provision in this area for people with mental health,” she said.

“If our people are going to be sectioning people and then they find themselves having to go to Chester for a bed, then continuing to support a family locally, and then back to Chester to support the patient – that is going to have an impact on our budget as well.”

Cllr Liz Durham, Conservative, agreed that transport issues would be a key concern for Cheshire East’s residents if Millbrook is closed.

“It is an issue, and I don’t think it has really been addressed,” she said.

“One of the things that was mentioned was that ‘care has to be close to home’ – well you’re not going to be cared for close to home if you have to travel that far.

“That’s what really, really worries me.”

But Tracey Cole, director of commissioning at NHS Vale Royal and South Cheshire clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), said that the decision taken needed to be right for all patients – not just those closest to Millbrook.

“We are talking about nearly half a million population across our three CCGs [Eastern Cheshire, Vale Royal and South Cheshire],” she said.

“Those people at any time could require access to these services, and we know that around 350 of those have used inpatient services in the Millbrook Unit.

“But we know that around 7,000 of those patients can benefit from care closer to home, and it’s about making sure we focus on those very large numbers and make sure we get it right.”

A business case based on the consultation’s findings will be presented to the governing bodies of the three CCGs in November before a decision is made on whether to close Millbrook.