Mental health unit safety fear

FEARS a secure psychiatric hospital could transform an admin building into a patient care home in a residential street have sparked residents into action.

A campaign has been launched by Kneesworth residents worried that families could soon be living next to people detained under the Mental Health Act.

They believe Kneesworth House Hospital will soon be applying for permission to change House 61 near Old North Road – that is not within its grounds – into an open rehabilitation unit for patients.

John Spenceley is spearheading a campaign to oppose any moves and this week the Kneesworth Community Group met to discuss their concerns.

He told the Crow : “We believe they want to change it to a residential building making it a halfway house for people who have been sectioned and not fit to be out in the community.

“I know the patients in the hospital there are secured and they are going to be in close proximity to people who are not fit to be out there without support.

“These people may not need to be in a secure building but they could be asking people to live next door without any other protection. You can’t choose your neighbours but in this case you want to choose them.”

Most Read

Residents are also concerned that if planning permission is granted, they will have no say over what type of patient will be housed there and that if anything was to go wrong it is “likely to be very serious”.

Although the idea of a half-way house has angered residents a leading mental health charity believes that they are an integral part of rehabilitation.

Sophie Corlett, director of external relations at the mental health charity Mind, said: “One in four people will experience mental health problems in the course of their lives – someone in every family, office or group of friends – and the vast majority do not need to stay in hospital and are highly unlikely to be violent or dangerous.

“Halfway houses are an important part of community mental health treatment: they are more personal than inpatient units and residents are free to go to work as normal, visit friends and family and keep up routines that can help keep them well.”

A planning application has not been lodged with South Cambs District Council and the owners of Kneesworth House Hospital – Partnerships in Care – would say little.

“I can’t really comment on that at the moment, I believe there has been no planning application put in,” a spokesman said.

• What do you think? Email or write to Royston Crow, Thomas Morris, 6 Melbourn Street, Royston, SG8 7BX.