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Sale of Laurel House mental health centre in Canterbury halted

The closure of Canterbury’s main centre for NHS mental health services has been delayed, in a victory for campaigners.

Plans by Kent and Medway Partnership Trust (KMPT) to sell Laurel House in Old Dover Road, where patients receive support from psychiatrists, community nurses, occupational therapists and other specialists, have been suspended for 12 months while it looks for a “replacement facility”.

In April, the trust unveiled proposals to move the majority of these services to St Martin’s Hospital, where severely ill patients who have been sectioned under the Mental Health Act or voluntarily admitted to an acute ward are cared for.

Laurel House, Old Dover Road
Laurel House, Old Dover Road

However, it will now look for alternative sites after fears, publicised by the KentOnline, were raised that patients who have been hospitalised at St Martin’s would find it “traumatic” to return to the site.

Canterbury MP Rosie Duffield was among those to raise fears over the move, which she called a “cost-cutting exercise at a time when mental health services in this constituency are under severe pressure”.

Mark Kilbey, the director of Take Off, a mental health charity based in Military Road which has campaigned against the plans, said: “This is very good news for people who use mental health services in Canterbury.

Mark Kilbey, director of Take Off mental health charity. (12303877)
Mark Kilbey, director of Take Off mental health charity. (12303877)

“Laurel House has been very valuable to thousands of people over the years. It’s in a central location, it’s easily accessible, and although it may need some refurbishments, it’s still been extremely important to the recovery of a lot of people.

“It’s a very positive thing that KMPT are listening to their patients. We don’t know what the end of this process will be, and will be monitoring it closely, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction.

“If anybody has anything further that they would like to say about this, please do contact Take Off.”

The trust has now set up a project group which will search for an alternative site to St Martin’s Hospital and carry out “essential works” to Laurel House so staff and patients can remain there for the next year.

A spokesman for KMPT said: “Laurel House is rapidly becoming no longer fit for purpose. We have listened to staff and patients who previously raised concerns about the building and lack of parking at the site.

“We are taking this opportunity to relocate our services in Canterbury to one site, making it easier for patients who have contact with a range of our services.

“There isn’t a set timeline at the moment but we are taking every opportunity to listen to patients and address any concerns they may have about the move.”

What do you think? Comment below or email kentishgazette@thekmgroup.co.uk

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