26 OCT 2017

Fighting for better mental healthcare in Dover and Deal

Mental healthcare is incredibly important. For too long it was given less attention than physical health and people struggled to get proper support.

That's why I'm glad this Government acted to give it equal weight in law. Investment in treatment is rising sharply, with an extra £2.25 billion being pumped into mental health services by 2020. Forty per cent more people are accessing them since 2010.

And in Dover and Deal, real strides are being made. Last week I visited Coleman House to discuss progress with Kent and Medway Social Care Partnership Trust chief executive Helen Greatorex, her deputy Victoria Stevens, and the area's new permanent consultant Dr Kirsten Lawson.

People used to come to me all the time complaining about local mental health services. Vulnerable people were cared for in beds in Manchester or Hull. Many were discharged early, some didn't get follow-up contact for weeks. Some didn't get any help at all. I have pushed hard for improvements since I became MP and things finally look like they are on the up.

This year Kent and Medway Social Care Partnership Trust received fantastic praise from health watchdog the Care Quality Commission. Eight out of ten services were rated Good or Outstanding. Inspectors said they are closing in on being rated Outstanding overall, something boasted by only two trusts across the whole country.

The Coleman House team told me how progress was achieved. At one point people were looked after in private beds all over the country. It wasn't right for patients or families, and it was costing the trust millions. By rebalancing units and staff, they have reduced private bed usage to virtually nil.

But I also work closely with local mental health support group Talk It Out, so I know there is more work to be done. I told trust bosses follow-up contact should take place in the first couple of days after discharge. I also said I want to see more care co-ordinators so there is always someone for people to speak to.

More local services, more beds and more mental health support are all part of my vision for a fairer share of healthcare in Dover and Deal.

We've come a long way together since 2010. In Deal our much-loved hospital was left teetering on the edge, until our strong community campaign secured its future. In Dover Buckland Hospital had been decimated over a decade. Two years ago we got a £24 million state-of-the-art facility in its place.

But I want to see more services at both. There's a great opportunity to commission care beds at another brand new facility, right next door to Buckland.

And we must keep up the focus on mental health. We all know someone who has suffered with mental health problems, yet for years they weren't able to access treatment that could help them meaningfully, long and short term.

Let's keep fighting so everyone in Dover and Deal gets the first class healthcare they deserve.

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Charlie Elphicke

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