EAST Cheshire’s mental health inpatients unit will close next year – but most patients will not have to travel to Chester as first feared.

At a meeting in Congleton on Thursday, NHS commissioners agreed to move the inpatient beds for adult mental health patients and dementia patients from the Millbrook unit to Lime Walk House – both in Macclesfield.

It is part of wider plans to transform care for adult mental health patients and dementia patients across east Cheshire – which also include investment into a 24-hour crisis support service, community beds, therapy and home treatment.

Jacki Wilkes, lead officer on the project, told commissioners that they had ‘a real opportunity’ to deliver much-needed change to mental health care and meet the needs of patients across east Cheshire.

“We know that there is an increasing demand for specialist mental health services,” she said.

Knutsford Guardian:

“And we know also that, for the majority of patients with specialist needs, the majority of the care takes place in the community.

“We heard extensively that users of the service feel there is a distinct lack of choice around early intervention and prevention services – but very specifically around crisis support.”

NHS Eastern Cheshire, South Cheshire and Vale Royal clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) ran a public consultation on plans to transform mental health care in the spring.

The most popular option from that consultation was ‘option two’ – to fund improved community care and keep dementia services in Macclesfield, at Lime Walk House, but move inpatient beds for mental health to Bowmere, in Chester.

Residents, members of Cheshire East Council and David Rutley, Macclesfield MP, all raised concerns about patients, families and carers having to travel to Chester.

But last week a new option was put forward after East Cheshire NHS Trust agreed to transfer the CARS ward, in Macclesfield, to the body responsible for mental health care – Cheshire and Wirral Partnership (CWP).

That means 15 beds for dementia patients can now be provided in Macclesfield, plus a further 26 for adult mental health patients.

Ms Wilkes added: “From what the public tell us, options two and two plus support improving outcomes and delivering 24-hour crisis support.

“But only option two plus delivers on the third most important thing for people [during consultation], which was being able to visit hospital easily.”

The changes will be made to fund major improvements to mental health care for all patients aged 18 or over in the Cheshire East borough, plus Northwich and Winsford.

Thirty full-time equivalent (FTE) jobs will be funded in community mental health support, plus eight FTE positions in home treatment rapid response and two roles in the dementia outreach team.

Patients will also benefit from increased access to therapy, plus 24-hour access to crisis services and beds in the community.

The new option would require an additional £730,000 from NHS budgets – although the CCGs would still make a saving of £500,000 over their current spend.

However, the new plans mean that Soss Moss, in Nether Alderley, will now not be renovated for use as a rehabilitation centre for mental health patients with the most complex needs.

Those patients will travel to Bowmere – but Dr Anushta Sivananthan, told commissioners that patient feedback groups said they preferred Chester, where it is easier to ‘engage with the wider community’.

Knutsford Guardian:

The Guardian understands the movement of rehab beds to Chester will affect around five patients at any one time.

The CCGs hope the new mental health service will be up and running by October 2019 – a year earlier than the original plans would have taken to implement.

Community beds and improvements to crisis support will be in place before Millbrook is closed, the CCGs have said.