Protests against closure of mental health centre hit Cambridge City Centre

Jocelyn Major 15 March 2014

Today saw protesters take to the streets in Market Square to fight the closure of the Cambridge Complex Cases Service (CCS), a support system for adults with personality disorders in Cambridge.

Protestors chanted “They say cut back, We say fight back”, condemning the decision to shut down CCS, which currently occupies the Lifeworks centre in Tenison Road, by the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust (CPFT), due to financial reasons.

Speaking to The Cambridge Student, Ann Robinson, a service user, suggested that the closure of CCS would leave patients with a distinct lack of support, stating: “They’ve discharged us back to our GP with no support whatsoever and we’re not allowed to reapply for the new service, which they’re calling Personality Disorders Community Pathways, for six months. Our GPs are not equipped to deal with our condition and neither do they have the time or the skills. That’s why they send us to Complex Cases.”

One of CCS’s success stories, a past PHD student from Jesus College whom CCS helped through a number of suicide attempts, also spoke to TCS at the protest. Highlighting the importance of the organisation’s work, they noted that "8/10 people with borderline personality disorder try to commit suicide and 1/10 succeed. If people who are suffering from this disease don’t have somewhere to go then they’re left on they’re own. It’s a terrible disease and if Complex Cases can do anything to help even one person get through life, then it’s worth it."

Speaking at the event, Steve, an organiser for the GNB trade union and also a former mental health nurse, drew attention to the effect of welfare cuts in recent years, including the closure of hospital wards in Cambridgeshire as well as organisations such as Burnett House Day Centre, Cobwebs, Crowlands and the Mitchell Day Centre. He said: “We’ve heard news this week that mental health trusts are being made to make 20% more cuts than in other areas. It seems to be always the case that those are the most vulnerable in society. The people that they think they can pick on, and that they can make cuts and get away with it. They seem to be bearing the brunt of these ideologically, financially driven cuts.

“When the Tories took over in 2010, they told us that decisions about healthcare would be in the hands of health professionals. That decisions would be clinically driven and clinically made. Well we’ve heard already that many of those clinicians that are supposed to be the ones making the decisions did not even know that this service was closing down. It makes a complete mockery of Tory claims that there will be no top-down reorganisations within the NHS. It makes a complete mockery of their claims that the NHS is safe in their hands.”

Cambridge Labour Parliamentary Candidate Daniel Zeichner also attended the protest and suggested that the closure of CCS would actually put greater pressure on NHS finances, stating: “Actually I think it could end up costing more because this is a service that stops people going into crisis.”

The protestors expressed hope that the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) will respond to the public reaction against the closure of CCS and will enter discussions with them in a meeting on Tuesday.