Concern over ward closures at St Luke's Hospital

MENTAL health campaigners have been quick to condemn controversial plans to close three psychiatric wards at St Luke's Hospital in Muswell Hill

Charlotte Newton

MENTAL health campaigners have been quick to condemn controversial plans to close three psychiatric wards at St Luke's Hospital in Muswell Hill.

Michael Howlett is the director of the Zito Trust which helps the victims of mentally disordered offenders.

He said: "Most of the time when wards are closed it is do with budget cuts. Closing wards at St Luke's will raise the threshold of people needing hospital treatment elsewhere and that's not a good thing."

The trust was set up in 1994 after Jonathan Zito was fatally stabbed in the eye by schizophrenic Christopher Clunis while waiting for a tube at Finsbury Park.

In May 2003, mental patient Christopher Studders, who was on "unescorted leave" from St Luke's, tried to kill two women by pushing them under a train at Euston tube station.

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And in November 2002 Camden Ripper Anthony Hardy was released from St Luke's - only to kill and dismember two women two weeks later.

In a similar attack, Muswell Hill dentist and bestselling author Roger Levy, 53, was stabbed by Ismail Dogan, 30, when he was on his way to work. The father of two suffered severe leg injuries and was left traumatised by the unprovoked, random attack on December 23 2004.

Dogan, from Tottenham, who suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, stabbed six people that morning, leaving his final victim, Ernest Meads, dead.

Informed of Camden and Islington Mental Health and Social Care Trust's plans to close three wards at the psychiatric hospital in Woodside Avenue, Mr Levy did not condemn the proposal, but said: "I think it's important that mental health services are constantly under review, maintained and improved."

Resident Tony Briam, 57, who lives in Grand Avenue, Muswell Hill said: "We've lived next to the hospital for a year and have never had any problems with patients. But I am concerned about the future welfare of patients at the hospital.

"Is this a cost-cutting exercise and will it lead to the eventual closure of the entire hospital?

"We're also concerned about what will happen to the building. There is too much uncertainty about the future of the hospital."

A spokeswoman for the trust said: "We carried out a public consultation in 2007 on our proposals to rationalise inpatient services.

"The proposals put forward in the consultation have recently been approved. We will be moving three wards, which are for Camden patients, from St Luke's Hospital in Haringey to Camden.

"We are moving these wards closer to where our patients live as part of our plans to improve services.

"These moves will not be finalised for some months.

It is simply false to claim that a decision has been made to close St Luke's."

The trust added that long-term residential homes Willow House, Hazlewood House and Dunstan House, which are part of the hospital, will not be affected and inpatient child mental health unit Simmons House will also remain at St Luke's.