MP fights to save mental health centre

A Norfolk MP vowed to fight "tooth and nail" yesterday to secure the future of day services for people with mental health issues. The Bridges centre in Norwich, which currently has about 160 users, is one of two in the city included in a county council consultation on possible changes to adult mental health day services in Norfolk.

A Norfolk MP vowed to fight "tooth and nail" yesterday to secure the future of day services for people with mental health issues.

The Bridges centre in Norwich, which currently has about 160 users, is one of two in the city included in a county council consultation on possible changes to adult mental health day services in Norfolk.

Due to finish at the end of October, the consultation asks people to comment on adapting current services or commissioning new ones.

A final decision is likely to be made in November by county councillors, who have moved to reassure users that their opinions will be taken seriously.

Yesterday, Ian Gibson met people at the Magdalen Road service who are mounting a campaign to ensure the centre keeps its £160,000 council funding.

The self-referral centre, which is open six days a week, provides activities including creative writing, IT tuition and arts and crafts, together with outside trips such as bowling.

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Dr Gibson said: "£160,000 is a small amount for a service that is absolutely necessary to keep people together and talking about common problems and working with other organisations within the vicinity and across Norfolk. I pledge to fight tooth and nail not just to keep it open but to extend it in collaboration with similar services in Norwich."

Bridges is one of two adult mental health day service providers in Norwich - the other is Mind.

A county council spokesman said: "At this stage the consultation is still ongoing and no decision on the future of day services has yet been taken.

"We are carrying out this consultation because the current service is largely based in Norwich and only meets the needs of some people with mental health issues. Only 3pc of people 18 to 65 use current day services and users in rural parts of the county tell us they are not getting a fair deal.

"The aim of this consultation is not to close services but to design a service which will meet the needs of more people with mental health issues in Norfolk and which is accessible for people throughout Norfolk."

But David Pilgrim, Rethink Bridges service manager, said the consultation had put unnecessary pressure on vulnerable people.

He said: "The day-services redesign has been a lengthy process that has put service users under enormous pressure, and some of the passion and fear that has been voiced is because they have felt unheard during this consultation. We always strive to improve services in line with government guidelines and evidence- based best practice. Many service users have moved on and continue to do so and become valued members of the community as a result of the support they have received with rethink services."

Peter Gianfrancesco, chief executive of central Norfolk Mind, added: "Our view is change is needed in the way services are provided and we will be lobbying hard to ensure that what we are allowed to do is gradually changed over time rather than having it stop and a totally new service set up."

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