Axe falls on Portsmouth alcohol and drug rehab centre for good despite lengthy campaign

Portsmouth MP Flick Drummond at Baytrees in Milton
Portsmouth MP Flick Drummond at Baytrees in Milton
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THE death knell has sounded for a drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre in Portsmouth, despite the best efforts of campaigners to stop its closure.

The Baytrees Residential Detox Centre, at St James’ Hospital, has now shut its doors – despite fears this will see more pressure piled on the emergency services and see addicts turn to crime.

It’s really worrying, because there has been a big drive towards community style detoxes. It can work, but for people with really complex mental needs or who need intense detoxification, they won’t get that in the community.

Former Baytrees volunteer Matt Goodall

Solent NHS Trust put forward the closure plan as it said the centre was losing up to £500,000 a year due to insufficient beds being filled and more clients being placed on community treatment programmes.

But critics say the number of people suffering from addiction is rising and community programmes are not adequate for those most at need.

It comes after health and scrutiny panels across Hampshire failed to make formal challenges against the move, so the closure has gone ahead.

Former Baytrees volunteer Matt Goodall, who has been through a drug recovery programme, is devastated.

He said: ‘There is a whole wealth of knowledge of addiction that has been gathered over 20 years which has pretty much been lost.

‘In the long run, it’s going to be a burden on the emergency services, we could see more people on the streets sleeping rough, and crime will go up.

‘Baytrees transformed a lot of lives. I don’t know what would have happened to a lot of these people. Some of them weren’t able to make it through the door unaided.

‘It’s worrying, because there has been a big drive towards community-style detoxes. It can work, but for people with really complex mental needs or who need intense detoxification, they won’t get that in the community.’

Jane Muir, who runs The Recovery Cafe, in Kingston Road, Buckland, says she has seen the way people have turned their lives around.

She said: ‘Baytrees was an excellent resource for the people of Portsmouth.

‘I came to realise three or four years ago there was a concerted effort on the part of the commissioners to get rid of it. It has not been available for people to choose as a detox.’

Portsmouth South MP Flick Drummond, who held meetings with Baytrees staff in a bid to thrash out a rescue plan, says she’s bitterly disappointed.

She said: ‘I did fight for it. I spoke to health secretary Jeremy Hunt about this. It’s very disappointing.

‘But I know that there are mechanisms in place to make sure people aren’t left in a worse situation. I have been talking to other stakeholders and other organisations to make sure this area is covered.

‘But I am going to be monitoring it very closely, because we have a huge alcohol problem in the city and I have got to make sure nobody suffers because the Baytrees unit has been closed.’

Solent NHS Trust says Baytrees closed on Monday following an extensive period of engagement with stakeholders.

WHY PANEL DID NOT INTERVENE

THE councillor who was in charge of Portsmouth’s health, overview and scrutiny panel when it studied the Baytrees closure has explained why it never challenged the plans.

Cllr John Ferrett said councils couldn’t afford to keep booking beds for clients due to funding cuts – and ordering Solent NHS Trust to think again wouldn’t have helped.

Cllr Ferrett said: ‘The scrutiny panel could have referred it.

‘But ultimately, the councils wouldn’t have found any more funding. That’s the issue.

‘If councils are not making referrals, the unit isn’t viable. The panel didn’t have the power to stop this from happening.

‘What it has the ability to do is refer decisions back in certain circumstances and whether they would result in a major change of service.

‘But in these circumstances, I don’t believe we would have had the power to do that anyway.

‘And certainly, there was no indication from the panel – although people weren’t entirely happy – it was about budget constraints and monetary constraints.’