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Local campaigners rally against closure of mental health unit

Posted on - 25th October, 2010 - 10:00am | Author - | Posted in - Campaigns, People, Politics, Preston News

One of SAFE's signs at the rally. Image: Dominic Ellis

Angry local campaigners rallied against the planned closure of the Avondale Unit at the Flag Market on Saturday.

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The rally, planned by Save the Avondale For Everyone (SAFE), protested against the mental health unit’s planned closure in December by the Lancashire Care (NHS) Foundation Trust (LCFT).

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SAFE want the mental health unit to remain in Preston, because it will be easier for local residents to visit their ill relatives.

Labour MP, Mark Hendrick spoke at yesterday’s event. “This exercise which is being carried out at the Avondale unit is a tip of a wedge, a very, very thick wedge,” he said.

The LCFT’s plans to make ÂŁ33 million worth of cuts to its services, according to information leaked to the Labour MP.

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“We feel, is what they doing is that they going to get rid of all 15 mental health units in Lancashire and they only going to build one hospital in Blackpool,” said Fiona Jones, another speaker.

“That means for the whole of Lancashire, if anybody has any mental health problems and need to be admitted to hospital, they’ll be miles and miles away from family and friends,” she added.

Four new hospitals, crisis houses and a local psychiatric assessment unit were promised in a 2006 LCFT public consultation, but nothing has been built.

Shutting down and selling of the smaller units, including Avondale, will pay towards the new projects’ cost, according to the researcher.

“They have brought in a private asset management company, to effectively lend Lancashire Care the money to build the hospital,” said Ms Jones.

“So they don’t even have the money to build the hospital. It’s a disgusting policy. They publicly accountable,” she added.

“In effect, once this hospital in built, then it will be on mortgage for ever and everyone will pay for it for ever. It will never be owned by the NHS, it will be owned by the private company,” she added.

The mental health staffs’ future is also on the line. “Once the units go, we very worried about where the staff will go and especially with the government cuts we anticipate there are going to be a lot of redundancies,” said Ms Jones.

SAFE’s campaign has been successful because Avondale and other Lancashire mental health units are used by the people, said Ms Jones.

“We’ve been amazed by the support. We had things given. Everyone is willing to help, to try to stop this,” she added.

“Even people who might not have spoken out before, they speaking out now, saying I was ill once and I went into Avondale and it was good because I was close to my family,” she added.

SAFE will be launching a judicial review in the next two months against the LCFT’s 2006 decision.

A fund-raising event will be held in the future to keep the campaign running. The venue has not been confirmed.

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Clips courtesy of Dominic Ellis

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