Published: 00:00, 15 April 2004
A PSYCHIATRIC hospital is planning to send a number of mentally ill patients home to make way for elderly people with Alzheimer’s.
Little Brook Hospital in Dartford - which treats patients from Gravesend, Dartford and Swanley - is to hand over 16 of its 48 psychiatric beds in Birch Ward.
Depressives aged between 18 and 65 will be sent home under the care of the Crisis Resolution Home Team leaving just 32 beds for in-patients.
The proposal has concerned a leading psychiatrist and one high-profile pressure group which has long campaigned for better treatment of people with mental health problems.
The Zito Trust, set up by Jayne Zito 10 years ago after her husband Jonathan was killed by a schizophrenic being cared for in the community, said some patients could feel isolated and become a risk to themselves.
However, a patient being treated under the proposed Crisis Resolution Home Team has nothing but praise for the proposal.
The woman from Tonbridge, identified only as Sheila, said the scheme helped her regain confidence to lead a normal life.
She said: “I have had experience of a psychiatric hospital and much prefer to be treated in my own home, knowing that if I suffer a crisis that help is just a phone call away.”
But Professor Tonmoy Sharma, of Dartford’s Clinical Neuroscience Centre, said such patients and their families may not be able to cope at home and a psychiatric bed was often necessary.
Professor Sharma said: “It’s an interesting idea on paper but people do need psychiatric care.
“It’s bad news if a person is suicidal because they are a danger to themselves and a psychiatric hospital is often a last resort because the family can not cope.”
West Kent NHS and Social Care Trust plan to select 16 patients at the Bow Arrow Lane hospital to return to their own homes.
A team of nurses, doctors, health experts and social services workers will visit them and their families.
The vision, says West Kent NHS, is in line with government policy and what patients want, and is not a new idea.
A Trust spokesman said the plans were in very early stages and it was consulting with mental health charities, organisations, patients and the public.
He added that the majority of people with depression and/or schizophrenia already lived in the community and managed their own medicine.
But a spokesman for the Zito Trust said: “In principle it is not a bad idea but our concern is the person’s ability to take their own medicine and find something meaningful to do at home."