Health unions including the RCN have been campaigning for better communication and staff engagement around plans to close residential beds for mental health patients at the Retreat in York.
Proposals to completely withdraw from providing essential inpatient and residential services, and to transfer other services to a private provider have shocked and alarmed staff, clients and their families.
The Retreat, which is a charitable not-for-profit provider of specialist health care is looking to close the services by the end of the year, which could result in 173 staff redundancies. They are also planning to transfer the Kemp and Naomi units to a private company.
So far the Board and senior management of The Retreat have failed to consult with the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), Unison and the other local health unions representing the nursing and healthcare as well as support and admin staff.
RCN Officer for North Yorkshire, Sarah Hughes said: “It is shocking and incredibly sad that a 200 year old mental health provider founded by the Quakers is axing vital mental health services in York.
“Cutting mental health services flies in the face of increasing demand. Plans and promises earlier in the year to expand services at The Retreat have amounted to nothing. Equally worrying is that the Commissioners have said nothing about the proposals publicly and The Retreat remains on their risk register.
“Although the RCN has been allowed in for one to one meetings with staff, decisions by the Board have been pushed through without any proper or meaningful consultation with clients, staff or the public. Despite our best efforts, senior management have simply refused to talk to the trade unions about the situation nor the future.
“Staff are incredibly anxious and worried about the new proposals and the direct and long-term impact on their clients – some of the most vulnerable in society - as well their own futures. Already services are being run down and residents are very upset and confused by the changes, many of whom call The Retreat their ‘home’.
“Mental health provision has been starved of long term funding and seen as a ‘Cinderella’ service. It’s high time that the government stopped its rhetoric and empty promises and ensured that commissioners and providers received the funding they need.”
The RCN has undertaken local media work around the issue and recently met with the MP for York Central Rachael Maskell, who has committed to taking up these concerns with the employer and raising with the Secretary of State for Health.