Dave's Progress. Chapter 87: Austere Times at the Bennett Centre.

So, it seems that the economic "age of austerity" has well and truly begun to bite here in Stoke-on-Trent. And wouldn't you just know it, mental health is one of the first victims of the massive cuts needed in services to reduce our burgeoning budget deficit.
According to an article in our local newspaper, beds at North Staffordshire's four resource centres are "under threat" as mental health bosses look to save money by cutting 53% of places used by those with mental health needs. Among the four centres, which each currently have 8 beds, is the Bennett Centre which I attend on a regular basis for our Pathways to Recovery group. The number of beds will be cut by 32 to 15, with all 8 beds at the Bennett Centre going in order for it to become the main base for community mental health service staff in the city.
To my mind, this is a real shame, as the beds in question offered a place for respite and recovery both from home life and the more, it has to be said, "demanding" environment of the acute wards at our local Harplands Hospital. The places at the Bennett Centre, then, offered a sort of intermediary service in between home and hospital. No one, it seems, actually wants to spend time on an acute ward, and if truth be told, sometimes just the pressures of everyday living can be too much to cope with. Despite this, patients (or service users as we are now called) will have fewer choices when in need of treatment if these cuts go ahead, the only options remaining being either community care or a stay at the Harplands.
Patients and service user groups have been extremely worried by these developments. In another article in our local paper, where it had been suggested that the beds would close, but only for weekends, Lorien Barber, director of the North Staffs Users Group said:
"This is a slippery slope. I don't think they have any real intention of re-opening the units at weekends. We can't see how patient care won't be affected. It will lead to people being moved around and having their treatment disturbed".
And so it is that, after all, the unit at the Bennett Centre will not even be open during the week, and a valuable resource for service users appears to be going down the drain.
What irks me most about these cuts in services, though, is that it always seems that such austere measures begin with the poorest and most vulnerable in society, while the orchestrators of our recent economic collapse, who must be some of the richest people in the country, appear to get away relatively unscathed. Indeed, I don't know whether it's just me, but there seems to be a real fear amongst our populace of the political left, a fear which possibly grew out of the rampaging leftist movements of the 1970s which left the country in similarly dark economic waters. But, surely things have gone too much the other way and veered too far to the right, to the point that Ed Miliband, because he secured votes from the unions in the recent Labour leadership contest and is said to be slightly left of centre, has been branded by the "Daily Mail", "Red Ed". As one pundit pointed out, his policies are perhaps no different to those of any other European social democrat, and yet in Britain he has been given this apparently pejorative monicker. So, just how rich do the rich have to get, and how poor do the poor have to be, in order for someone to realise that such inequalities of wealth cause enormous problems and the political right is not the answer to them.
So, it seems, whatever I think, we're in for austere times at the Bennett Centre. Fortunately, our Pathways to Recovery group will not be affected by these cuts and, indeed, is going from strength to strength. One can only feel terribly sad, however, for those who are not so far on in their care and who would no doubt benefit from the very resources that are currently being cut.
That's all for now from your normal, average, delusional and paranoid man.


Smita Tewari said…
must be great having a loving family and now sending ur kids to kindergarten!
bazza said…
Hello David. I think organisations like the National Health Service would love to become entirely administration-based and only consist of non-productive executives.
That way they would eliminate the costly and irritating areas of having to deal with patients - such a drain on resources!
As I believe I have previously mentioned here, my own industry depends on central and local government funding and we wait in fear for the up-coming spending review. So many under-supported sections of society will be seen as ‘soft targets’, without a proper voice, and will therefore be more vulnerable.
Enjoy what’s left of the weekend David and keep well.
ps: I think your previous commenter has posted at the wrong Blog!
David said…
Dear bazza,
Thanks again for your interest and comment.
Just this morning I heard David Cameron saying that the NHS was "different" and "special" in terms of cost-cutting, and so the government was actually planning a year on year increase in spending. Why, then, do I find that local mental health centres seem to be "under threat" of losing valuable resources? Perhaps someone is not telling us the whole truth. How unlike politicians!
Still, I hope you and your colleagues fare better in the anticipated spending review.
Yours with Very Best Wishes,
David said…
Dear Smita,
As bazza has so kindly pointed out, I think you may have commented on the wrong blog.
Still, I hope you have some time to read mine!
Yours with All the Best,
klahanie said…
Dear David,
I've just noted this posting on my site. It was way down on my list which goes in chronological order. Anyway, I'm here now and what you have written makes for sad and sobering reading.
I cannot really add much more to what you have so eloquently stated and to bazza's informative response.
Once again, a familiar pattern of hitting the soft targets and the vulnerable, rears its ugly head. I fear for those who will be directly affected by such adverse cuts.
The lady who has left a comment on here, most likely in error, does poetry and I think it is actually very good.
Take care, David.
In kindness, Gary.
David said…
Dear Gary,
Thanks for commenting.
It does seem that the new government are looking to save money by hitting some of the poorest and most vulnerable in society. Having said that, I did hear George Osborne announce this morning that child benefit is to be withdrawn from high earners (over £44,000). This will save something in the region of one billion pounds. So, perhaps everyone is in for it, not just us poor folk!
Yours with Very Best Wishes,
P.S. I should be in touch soon.

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