Portsmouth drug rehab unit could close after loss of funding

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THE only NHS-run drug rehabilitation unit in Hampshire is at risk of closing.

The Baytrees unit in St James’ Hospital, Locksway Road, Milton, has 23 beds for people to stay in and recover from using drugs.

It’s the only NHS centre of its kind in Hampshire and the service is provided by Solent NHS Trust.

Of the 23 beds, 11 are block-bought by Hampshire County Council, which means Solent has a fixed income for Baytrees for the year.

But now the council has awarded a £41.2m contract for substance misuse services to a different organisation, which means a regular source of income will no longer be coming in.

The other 12 beds are used by several other authorities as and when needed.

The other councils involved are Portsmouth City Council, Southampton City Council, Isle of Wight Council, Kent County Council, Oxfordshire County Council and Wiltshire Council.

The transfer of services will take place in July and if regular funding is not found then the service could close.

Solent has been running the service for four years.

The jobs of about 120 staff across Hampshire are at risk as part of the change.

Sarah Austin, director of strategy for the trust, said: ‘We do believe there is a risk and will work with commissioners in Southampton and Portsmouth to try to mitigate this risk.

‘There is a risk Baytrees may close, but we will be working with commissioners to try to avoid this.

‘We don’t want people to think the service will disappear in July, and we will move heaven and earth to make this service sustainable.’

Solent did take the county council to court to overturn its decision, but this was rejected.

Community alcohol misuse services could also be affected as Solent uses the county council to provide covering staff when needed.

‘When the contract was retendered, we bid for it and were very disappointed we were not successful,’ added Ms Austin.

‘We contested the way we were scored and wanted the council to go back to the drawing board, but that’s not to be.

‘We will work with our commissioners to transfer the service to the new provider in a professional and clinically safe way.’

The new three-year contract has been given to Inclusion, which is an organisation set up by the South Staffordshire and Shropshire NHS Foundation Trust. The county council was approached for a comment but did not respond.

THE chairman of a health panel said losing the Baytrees service would be very ‘serious’ for Portsmouth.

Councillor David Horne, chairman of Portsmouth City Council’s health, overview and scrutiny panel, said: ‘Considering the problems and issues we have in Portsmouth, it would be a great loss if this service were to close.

‘This is very serious and I hope we can keep it, even if it’s relocated elsewhere.

‘This is a well-used facility by lots of different authorities and I didn’t realise just how widespread that is.

‘I have been the unit and it is brilliant at what it does.

‘The staff are fantastic and the service is extremely well-regarded.

‘The problem with less money is authorities go on cost now instead of quality.’