Page last updated at 08:32 GMT, Sunday, 2 May 2010 09:32 UK

Maidenhead candidates debate mental health services

Prospect Park Hospital for mental illnesses in Reading
Candidates opposed mental health services moving to Prospect Park

Mental health services should be kept in east Berkshire, candidates in Maidenhead have said amid fears that patients could be sent to Reading.

Theresa May, Conservative, said because Reading's specialist mental health hospital had been rebuilt patients may be sent there from other NHS trusts.

She joined the Liberal Democrat and Labour candidates saying services had to be near the patients who used them.

Berkshire Mental Health Trust has not announced any plans to close services.

Political agenda

The candidates were responding to residents' fears that to save money mental health services at Wexham Park Hospital, Slough, Heatherwood Hospital, Ascot, Upton Hospital, Slough and St Mark's Hospital, Maidenhead, could be moved to Prospect Park Hospital in Reading which currently serves people with mental illnesses in west Berkshire.

Labour's Pat McDonald said: "We've got to keep services as close to the people who need to use them as humanly possible."

He said one of his neighbours worked with mental health carers and regularly complained it was underfunded compared to other areas of the NHS.

"Clearly mental health needs to be higher on politicians' agenda, not only for patients but for the people who look after people with mental illness," he added.

'Negative effect'

Lib Dem candidate Tony Hill said the fear of losing local mental health services in Maidenhead was a big issue for patients and carers he had spoken to, especially when he was campaigning to stop health services being downgraded at St Mark's Hospital in the past five years.

He said: "We need some kind of personal representation, possibly of an elected kind, to make sure health authorities and facilities like mental health are kept nearer people who need them.

"The possibility that your relatives have to go a long, long way which is difficult to get to, is not going to improve the health of the people with mental health difficulties, this is not a good move."

Theresa May, the former Shadow Secretary for Work and Pensions and Shadow Minister for Women, said there were many different health trusts covering hospitals in east Berkshire and she had spoken to many of them.

'Real difficulties'

She said a balance had to be struck between providing the best facilities and ensuring services were accessible for patients and their families.

She said: "Prospect Park is a good facility but one can't help but feel that having rebuilt Prospect Park, suddenly they are trying to find people to go into Prospect Park and are therefore looking at facilities elsewhere."

She said moving people from east Berkshire to Prospect Park would cause families and patients "real difficulties".

She said there needed to be a discussion with all the health authorities to find out exactly what services they could provide and what services would be available for people in east Berkshire.

The candidates announced for Maidenhead are:

Green: Peter Forbes; Lib Dem: Tony Hill; Conservative: Theresa May; Labour: Pat McDonald; Freedom and Responsibility: Peter Prior; British National Party: Tim Rait; UK Independence Party: Kenneth Wright.

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