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From The Socialist newspaper, 18 August 2010

Cuts devastate mental health services

Community mental health care bosses in Southwark, south London, aim to save 3.7 million in two years. They have explicitly stated that they are moving away from providing sustained, long term community support by handing responsibility to patients, who may not be ready or able to manage their own care.

Community teams across Southwark currently support 2,800 patients but are now expected to rapidly discharge 500 to 800 clients. All agency posts are to be cut, which will result in workloads increasing.

Smaller teams of six workers are planned, made up of three 'band six' and three 'band five' workers. However, most of the existing nursing posts are in band six, whose experience and training are of paramount importance when supporting people with severe and enduring illness within their communities. This means almost half of the workers will be demoted and suffer pay cuts of between 5,000 and 10,000 a year, depending on length of service.

The demotions will lead to demoralisation amongst frontline, very experienced staff who are effectively being driven out, reducing the amount of experience, skill and training in the workforce.

Patient admission stays are also to be cut, meaning patients will be briefly, and possibly more frequently, locked up, drugged up and then discharged with very short term, patchy support. GPs will be expected to care for chronically disabled people and they will not have the skills, time or desire to fill the gaps in mental health service provision.

If patients are not adequately supported then both patients and communities will be left exposed to increased rates of violent incidents, self harm, suicide, severe neglect, substance abuse and homelessness.

A mental health worker

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