Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Cambridge Patients Occupy Threatened Mental Health Drop-In Centre

Photo: Save Cambridge's Complex Cases Service
Patients have now been occupying a Cambridge mental health drop-in centre for one week, in a bid to prevent closure of a service they regard as a lifeline. This comes just a few weeks after a similar case in Ireland, and continues to show a possible way forward for service users and workers looking to defend public services.

The Lifeworks building is the community outreach arm of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust’s Complex Cases Service, which is due to shut down at the end of the month due to budget cuts. The Trust claims it needs to 'save' £6.5 million per year. The needs of over a hundred people clearly weigh as insignificant for those drawing up such budgets.

The centre has been open two days a week for the last twelve years, catering for adults with mainly borderline personality disorders. It offers a crisis clinic, a support group for service users, friends and family, and advice. The Trust has stated that a new 'care pathway' will provide some care for affected people.

However, campaigner Alex Jones told BBC Cambridgeshire that:
"Roughly 90% of patients in the Lifeworks service are not being referred to the new pathway so the majority of patients are going to be referred back to GPs with no help whatsoever. We are not moving until a representative from the Cambridgeshire Clinical Commissioning Group comes to us and we have some kind of agreement that we are going to be kept together as a community."
The Trust had initially demanded that the occupiers leave by 8th March, but this deadline was ignored. According to occupier Abi, as of Tuesday evening:
"We are currently still occupying the building in the hope of making some kind of compromise. We have been offered a room once a week for a year which is clearly not adequate so still waiting. People really have put their all in to keep it going and it's been amazing to see everyone pulling together and supporting each other. It would be great to inspire and see other communities doing the same [...] It's important that we stick up for ourselves."
The campaign group have called a demonstration at Cambridge Guildhall, for this coming Saturday afternoon. The group runs a 'Save CCS Lifeworks' Facebook page, and are encouraging supporters to sign their e-petition.
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