Life-saving mental health centre threatened with closure

Service could be sold despite helping St John’s Wood woman back into society after she tried to take her own life

A COMMUNITY mental health centre that “saved and helped rebuild” a St John’s Wood woman’s life is being threatened with closure.

Catherine Williams, 43, says The Abbey Road Community Mental Health Service, based in Blenheim Terrace, helped her back into society after she attempted to take her own life in 2006.

But cost-cutting measures being looked at by Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the service, could see the site sold off and the psychotherapy service consolidated at another centre.

“I am in absolutely no doubt they saved my life,” said Ms Williams, who lives in Aberdeen Place.

“After a breakdown in 2005 followed by a serious suicide attempt in 2006, the support provided by the Abbey Road team has helped me rebuild my life and enabled me to return to work and make a contribution to society.

“The psychotherapy service is not something that can be quantified simply in terms of financial value or reduced to figures on a spreadsheet.

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“For me, the service has quite literally been a lifeline.”

The team, which offers counselling, advice and assessment, helps people suffering from depression, anxiety, social isolation and a range of other mental health issues.

Ms Williams says the financial situation shouldn’t detract from the needs of the community which will suffer if the centre closes.

“Valuable knowledge, skills and experience will be lost, and professionals, who have done immeasurable good in helping individuals and families in some of the most challenging and difficult circumstances will be moved away,” she said.

“It may lead to people getting more ill and it seems like a false economy to me.

“I just worry that shutting it down will mean some of the most vulnerable people in society are not going to get the help they deserve.

“Local people from all walks of life and backgrounds will suffer – not just those currently relying on the service but those in the future who will be denied the help they need when they most need it.”

The possible closure of the centre, which is being discussed as part of a review of the NHS Trust’s services, comes at a time when the government has acknowledged that the economic climate increases the need for mental health services as people suffer stresses such as unemployment.

The government last week announced plans to put an extra �400million into mental health provision nationwide.

A Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust spokeswoman said: “The NHS nationally is facing huge financial pressures with all trusts required to make cost savings.

“As part of our plan to prioritise frontline clinical services, we are reviewing all trust premises to see whether we can reduce what we spend on buildings and our estate.

“This is an important part of making sure our frontline services are protected as much as possible.

“We have a large number of buildings within Westminster and we are currently reviewing the best way that they can be managed.”

A decision on the future of the centre will be taken after the review has taken place over the next few months, says the trust.