End in sight for Portsmouth alcohol and drug detox unit as panel decides not to act against closure plan

Baytrees, which is in the grounds of St James' Hospital in Milton, Portsmouth
Baytrees, which is in the grounds of St James' Hospital in Milton, Portsmouth
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THE death knell has all but sounded for a rehab centre after a committee chose not to fight plans to close it.

Portsmouth City Council’s health, overview and scrutiny panel (Hosp) today discussed proposals to close Baytrees Residential Detox Centre, at St James’ Hospital, which helps people with drug and alcohol problems.

Where is the expertise going to come from to deal with these complex issues? People deserve a chance of recovery.

Jane Muir

It comes despite senior Baytrees workers and people who have been helped there warning its closure would cause a ‘ripple’ effect across Portsmouth and see increases in the numbers of deaths, people living on the streets and emergency visits to Queen Alexandra Hospital.

The board of Solent NHS Trust, which put forward the closure plan as the centre is losing up to £500,000 a year due to beds not being filled, admitted patients wanting a similar level of therapy may now need to travel to Basingstoke or Weston-super-Mare.

But Hosp chairman Councillor John Ferrett said the move was not a ‘major change of service’ that would warrant an appeal to the government – and so nothing else can be done.

Baytrees campaigners will now have to wait and see what other Hampshire Hosp panels say before knowing for good whether the centre will close.

David Southon, Baytrees senior support carer, said: ‘It’s clinical neglect not to have a 24-hour unit for people with these complex needs. We haven’t been able to present the other side of the case.

‘We deal with human lives and the cost of human lives outweighs the financial costs. Many people are shocked and worried that this centre will close.’

Sheila Walsh, a recovering alcoholic, said she owes her life to Baytrees.

She said: ‘Baytrees saved my life. I’ve been a patient, a volunteer and now a full-time worker there and people have come up to me and asked why Baytrees is closing.’

Jane Muir, who battled a drink problem, said she’s concerned.

‘Where is the expertise going to come from to deal with these complex issues?’ she said. ‘People deserve a chance of recovery.’

The meeting heard that only seven of the centre’s 23 beds are being used.

It was claimed people had been ‘signposted away from Baytrees’, but a report said the trust had ‘invested in increased marketing and exploration of other opportunities’ but it had not had ‘a sustained positive effect on occupancy rates’.

Solent bosses say that’s largely because the drive from public sector commissioners has been ‘away from in-patient detox’ towards ‘community-based programmes’.

Hosp member Cllr Lynne Stagg wasn’t convinced. She said: ‘I’m very puzzled. This panel in 2012 did an investigation, and the thing that came across was, no one size fits all.

‘I know people who would not have benefited from a community-based programme. They need that residential, 24/7 service. There is still a demand.’

Sarah Austin, chief operating officer at Solent NHS Trust, said: ‘Baytrees has provided extraordinary service over a very long time, not just to the city but Hampshire more broadly.

‘The report shows that despite that, demand for the unit has changed, notably from Portsmouth in 2013, and Hampshire last year, to the point where we are seeing few referrals to the unit.

She added: ‘Without a certain number of people in the unit, the maths doesn’t work.’

Cllr Ferrett blamed cuts and the county council’s decision to stop block booking beds at Baytrees. But he said: ‘There is no major change of service to refer it back to the secretary of state.

‘It’s not of that magnitude. But people have expressed their concerns, and this is as a consequence of the cuts.

‘My concern is, if we have someone in Portsmouth who requires an equally important facility, they could be going as far as Basingstoke or Weston-super-Mare to reach that care.’