AN MP is seeking assurances over proposed changes to mental health services which could lead to the closure of two hospital wards.

The NHS is reviewing mental health care in Hambleton and Richmondshire and a consultation on the future of the service is now underway.

The preferred option would result in the closure of two mental health inpatient units at the Friarage Hospital in Northallerton.

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Under the favoured proposal, the trust’s community and crisis services will be enhanced to reduce hospital admissions and allow more people to be cared for at home.

When needed, inpatient care would be provided at either West Park Hospital in Darlington, Roseberry Park Hospital in Middlesbrough or Bishop Auckland General Hospital, depending on where the patient’s circumstances.

Concerned residents have branded the review “closure by stealth” and Richmond MP Rishi Sunak also has concerns which led to him writing to Colin Martin, chief executive of the Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundations Trust, to seek assurances.

In his letter, Mr Sunak asks what the increase in staffing and resources will be for the community mental health teams, and how much additional time will be available for community care.

The Conservative MP also raises concerns about increased travel times and refers to the Department of Health guidelines which state that placements should be in a location that helps people to retain the contact and familiarity they want.

Mr Sunak said: “The general intention to beef up our community health services, as set out in the consultation documents, is to be welcomed.

“It does make sense to treat people at home, or very close to home, where that is possible.

“But we want to be sure that the improved community service will fully compensate for the loss of the Friarage beds, and where inpatient treatment is deemed necessary, patients and their families will not be greatly disadvantaged.”

Mr Martin, said “Our ambition is to support people to live fulfilling and meaningful lives in their own communities, irrespective of symptoms or diagnosis of mental illness.

“Understandably Mr Sunak also wants to make sure that his constituents have access to the best possible mental health care – as do we.”

Mr Martin added that the Trust will respond directly to Mr Sunak and also publish the responses to his questions on the CCG’s website.

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