Downpatrick Green Party Cllr Cadogan Enright stated that he had been informed by staff at the Downe Hospital of a new proposal from the SEHSCT (South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust) to close the new 25 bed acute psychiatric assessment unit at the Downe.

Speaking at a Community Meeting in Ardglass Cllr Enright said, “my sources tell me that senior management informed staff that the new 25 bed unit was to close within two years with 5 of these beds going in the next 6 months. It is apparently proposed to merge this service in Lagan Valley Hospital in Co. Antrim. It is claimed that no redundancies are proposed so presumably staff will be expected to commute to other trust hospitals in Antrim and in Belfast – adding to the five and half thousand people that have to commute out of Down District every day to get to work.”

Cllr Enright continued, “Vulnerable people are more likely to recover quickly with the support of family and friends. It is easier to persuade people at risk to enter a local unit. Demand is increasing for these sorts of services with alcohol and drug abuse particularly creating issues among the young.

Cllr Cadogan Enright said, “This appears to be another series of ‘stealth cuts’ aimed at closing the new Downe Hospital even before it has a chance to establish itself. Local people will remember how the Finneston House 40 bed acute psychiatric assessment unit was closed when the new 25 bed unit was opened on the 28th June 2009 in the new Downe hospital. Some people will remember how the reduced number of beds was justified by a supposed provision of ‘robust care in the community’.

Cllr Enright pointed out “Minister McGimpsey said last Tuesday that he did not have the resources to support care in the community and that these cuts where made ‘in Northern Ireland,’ and not part of the Lib-Con cuts impending from Westminster”.

“I call on all local community activists and political representatives to work together to oppose the cuts in acute psychiatric services and to campaign for robust care in the community. The Downpatrick area needs to maintain its status as a centre of excellence for mental health care – It will be a massive loss to the district if this strategic employment base was lost,” concluded Green Party Cllr Enright.