These Residents Have Occupied Their Local Clinic to Save it From Cameron’s Cuts

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Architect of the NHS, Labour Party Health Secretary Aneurin Bevan once said “The NHS will last as long as there are folk left with the faith to fight for it”.  Here is the story of some people who are taking up that challenge.

Research by the London School of Economics has revealed that 30,000 people with poor mental health have lost their social care support since 2005, following a £90m shortfall in funding. Just weeks ago, The Mental Health Foundation, Rethink Mental Illness, Mind, the NHS Confederation Mental Health Network and the Centre for Mental Health and the Royal College of Psychiatrists released a letter warning that planned cuts for next year will put lives at risk as the system is already underfunded.

This community is fighting back.

Residents have successfully occupied their local healthcare clinic for six weeks, in efforts to save their services from the merciless cuts of the Cameron government.

As the Mirror newspaper reports:

For the past 12 years, Lifeworks has treated 200 patients who nearly all suffer from personality disorders. On March 28, the life-saving clinic was due to close as part of NHS cuts that have decimated local mental health services.

In protest, around 30 women service users, four men and three dogs have been occupying the clinic since March 4 – an astonishing six weeks.

Despite its record of saving and transforming the lives of local people, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust – currently implementing £6.5million in cuts – is closing the service.

Alex Jones, 35, who has used the clinic  for five years testifies to the positive impact the clinic has on users.

“I was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder when I was 16 and I’ve been sectioned around 12 times. But since I’ve been coming here, I haven’t had one hospital admission.”

Ann Robinson, another patient, adds.

“Eight out of 10 people with BPD attempt suicide,” she says. “One in 10 succeeds. This place saves lives.”

Another patients chimes in:

“Before coming here, I was a revolving door patient in and out of psychiatric wards and A&E. I haven’t had a single admission since coming here five years ago.”Our symptoms mean we often try to commit suicide or self-harm. We get into trouble with the police because of our behaviour or get sectioned. It’s saving the emergency services a fortune.”

After 12 years of pioneering these services in the area, clinic staff and patients alike were stunned to receive news that the local NHS Trust would be closing its doors for the sake of ideological austerity.  A letter from the Trust read:

“When the service changes at the end of March we will have to transfer your care back to your GP,” it wrote to the women.

“We recognise that for many of you this will come as a big shock. When you came into the service you were led to expect that the service would always be open to you. We cannot, however, honour that commitment any more.”

The patients only intended to protest overnight at the gates of the clinic, but in the confusion of the closure were left with the keys – and promptly barricaded themselves inside.  They have received overwhelming support from their community, who have been supplying them with food and other essentials to maintain their occupation.

“The place is the cleanest and tidiest it’s ever been,” one of the women laughs. “Most of us have got OCD.”

The protesters are also carefully negotiating the reality of sharing a space with fellow vulnerable people.  Maintaining an occupation in a large group like this is an extraordinary challenge for someone with this condition.

“You don’t go out of the house with BPD a lot of the time. Friends don’t understand your mood swings. Relationship difficulties are part of it.

“You’re happy one minute and down on the floor the next. But here there’s a community. A lot of us have self-harmed. Here you don’t have to hide your scars, you can wear a T-shirt.”

We should be proud and grateful to each and every member of this Cambridge community for taking a stand to defend the services upon which we all rely. They are a shining example of “Don’t get angry, get involved”, and a reminder that if all of us have a part to play in preserving our welfare state and the compassionate principles on which it was founded.

You can find out how to support the Occupation by going to their Facebook page and be sure to sign their petition to keep their clinic open.

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4 thoughts on “These Residents Have Occupied Their Local Clinic to Save it From Cameron’s Cuts

  1. Healthcare, be it physical or mental, is a basic right for everyone, it’s NOT just the right of the wealthy or the immigrants, these people will never be affected by clinic closures or reduced services!

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