South Belfast MLAs have urged the public to make their views known on proposals by the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust which include closing an acute inpatient mental health unit at Belfast City Hospital.
The proposals are part of a modernisation programme aimed at the “development of a single acute mental health inpatient facility for Belfast”.
The trust’s ‘Excellence and Choice’ document describes closing the 35-bed Windsor House unit in Belfast City Hospital as the preferred choice of four options.
The document states: “It has been recognised for a number of years that the standard of the facilities within Windsor fall significantly short of that expected within a modern inpatient psychiatric unit.
“In essence the proposed reform is that acute inpatient provision would be available in Knockbracken Healthcare Park and Mater Hospital and there would be the reprovision of acute inpatient psychiatric services from Windsor House to Knockbracken Healthcare Park and Mater Hospital.
“Furthermore, day treatment services would be modernised to deliver support to clients in their own communities and no longer be provided in three-day hospital facilities for general mental health. This would result in services which are currently provided from Windsor Day Hospital being provided on an outreach basis from Woodstock Lodge.
“The Trust is proposing the current day treatment services are re-provided on an outreach basis.”
The report does however add: “It is not anticipated that there will be any reduction in staff numbers.”
Stormont Health Minister and South Belfast MLA Michael McGimpsey said that no decision has yet been taken on the proposals.
“I would therefore encourage all people with an interest in Windsor House to respond to the consultation.”
South Belfast MP, Dr Alasdair McDonnell, said: “The possible closure of any hospital unit always causes a great degree of concern in the community. There is a need for reform and modernisation in our health system, particularly in mental health services, and I am pleased to see a greater focus placed on home treatment and community treatment.”
He added: “It is vitally important that the public has its say on this proposal and others put forward by the Belfast Trust.”
The documents are available for public consultation until March 26, 2009. For more information, visit www.belfasttrust.hscni.net.