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New mental health beds to be opened for children and young people

The Dragonfly Unit, in Carlton Colville. Picture: NORFOLK AND SUFFOLK NHS FOUNDATION TRUST

The Dragonfly Unit, in Carlton Colville. Picture: NORFOLK AND SUFFOLK NHS FOUNDATION TRUST

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New mental health beds for children and young people are set to open in the region after a review found current services were not enough.

Children and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) are being looked at nationally, while locally a complete overhaul of services is expected in the coming months and years.

But a review found that in the meantime, until the shake-up takes place, there was not enough support on offer for those most severely affected by mental ill health

A letter sent to MPs Clive Lewis, Sir Henry Bellingham, Keith Simpson, and Sandy Martin - and seen by this newspaper - said “the current service type available within the region does not meet that required to address the level of risk and mental health presentation of the young people in the interim period”.

But now commissioners were in discussions with Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Trust (NSFT) to open beds at the Dragonfly Unit, in Carlton Colville, Lowestoft..

It was not clear how many beds would be opened but campaigners have previously said out of 12 available beds, five were unused due to a lack of funding.

When the beds would open was also a mystery, as the letter said the timescale was based on staff recruitment.

But the trust recently closed 36 beds – 28 temporarily – in part due to a recruitment crisis and lack of staff.

The includes the temporary closure of the Lark Ward – Suffolk’s only psychiatric intensive care unit.

Norwich South Labour MP Mr Lewis, one of those who wrote to the NHS asking for change, said: “Service users, staff and loved ones have been saying for years we need more mental health beds so it’s good news that at long last someone seems to be listening. But we are going to need more than just stop-gap solutions like this to put things right and that means action from government.”

While Mr Simpson, Conservative MP for Broadland, said the news was a sign of cross-party working in the region’s interests.

He said: “I think it’s marvellous news. I think we all recognised the fact there was a shortage, the significance [of mental health] has been highlighted over the last few years and I think all parties have said more must be done.”

Ipswich Labour MP Mr Martin said he has had concerns about mental health provision for children and young people in Suffolk for a very long time and he was seeking to get an adjournment debate in Parliament about the issue.

The Dragonfly Unit opened in September 2016, at a cost of £1m.

It is the only place providing beds specifically for children in Norfolk and Suffolk.

A spokesman for the Campaign to Save Mental Health Services in Norfolk and Suffolk added: “Of course we welcome this news. However, it is amazing that this newly-built and expensive NHS provision remained unused for years as young people were transported miles away to private hospitals across the country. Now, commissioners need to listen to the CQC and recognise that mental health services, inpatient and in the community, are inadequate and fund them properly.”

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