'How will mental health patients travel to planned £60m facility in Bedford?'

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Questions are being asked about how mental health patients from across Bedfordshire will travel to a proposed £60m facility in Bedford.

NHS bosses are seeking to transform Grade II-listed Shires House in the north wing of Bedford Hospital into the premier mental health unit in Bedfordshire.

But investment in the site will likely lead to the closure of Oakley Court and Calnwood Court in Luton, as well as Townsend Court in Houghton Regis.

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Local mental health services are managed by East London Foundation Trust (ELFT), which states a transport survey will be carried out to see how patients can travel to the planned facility.

Mental health    (stock image)Mental health    (stock image)
Mental health (stock image)

Bedford Borough Council is also requesting a public consultation.

According to a report to Central Bedfordshire Council's social care, health and housing overview and scrutiny committee, the new service will provide:

> NHS 111 24-hour mental health crisis support for all ages across Bedfordshire;

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> A mental health crisis café and 24-hour mental health assessment hubs, in the north and south of the county, providing walk-in crisis support;

> Expanded Bedfordshire and Luton mental health recovery college;

> Bedfordshire Wellbeing Service;

> Development of new neighbourhood mental health teams around primary care networks.

During the committee meeting, Liberal Democrat Houghton Hall councillor Susan Goodchild asked how travel would be managed.

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Councillor Goodchild said: "From Houghton Regis to Bedford and then to the new provision isn't easy.

"People are really feeling challenged."

Director of integrated care for ELFT, Richard Fradgley said: "We recognise proposals may cause anxiety to some residents. We'll be commissioning a transport survey so we understand the impact on travel times."

Independent Biggleswade South councillor Hayley Whitaker asked: "What can we as a council do to improve public transport across the region, so everyone can make best use of this fantastic facility?

"I'm mindful mental health issues don't just arise from 9am to 5pm on Monday to Friday, when the bus services are running."

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Independent Tithe Farm councillor Pat Hamill warned: "In Houghton Regis, the most deprived area of Bedfordshire, we're seeing a facility taken away.

"People don't want to travel too far. They want families and friends close by."

Mr Fradgley replied: "It doesn't mean ELFT is withdrawing mental health services from Houghton Regis."

Conservative Heath and Reach councillor Mark Versallion, who chairs the committee, said: "Bedford isn't always the easiest town to drive around. There must be a study on transport accessibility and travel times."

The committee agreed it wishes ELFT and the CCG to run a public consultation, while the travel and transport options are examined.

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