No alternative yet to Exmouth's St John's Court

PUBLISHED: 10:00 17 October 2016

St John's Court

St John's Court

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District councillors say a closure-threatened Exmouth mental health facility must be replaced first.

East Devon District Council’s scrutiny committee invited representatives from the Devon Partnership NHS Trust (DPT) to speak about its plans to sell St John’s Court. The committee also heard from campaigners from the St John’s Court project group, which spoke of the importance of the facility to the town.

Project group member Dr Keith Edwards said: “St John’s Court is a highly-valued unit by service users and their carers.

“Although we have been reassured that there will be a base in Exmouth, the DPT has been struggling to provide convincing evidence that there are alternative places available. For the service users and their carers, it’s not that they have a fear of change per se, but they are very much concerned about what change will occur.”

Some councillors echoed these concerns, with Councillor Brian Bailey saying: “This situation is yet again cuts, cuts, cuts, for whatever reason, and it’s [affecting] the more vulnerable of society yet again. ”

DPT representatives said St John’s Court would not close until a replacement had been found, and a search for alternatives had not yet succeeded.

DPT chief operating officer Dr David Somerfield said: “St John’s Court is largely underused, it is relatively expensive to maintain, and there are possibly other options in Exmouth. Exmouth Hospital was one of the alternatives. However, that hasn’t materialised.

“Until we find a suitable alternative, we can’t move out of St John’s Court.”

Deputy director of operations Jacquie Mowbray-Gould said: “We’re not suggesting that we won’t be providing the services we’re currently providing in Exmouth. We will be.”

When asked if the former Rolle College site – set to become the new home of Exeter Deaf Academy – could be an option, the DPT’s Kevin Brady said: “We have been in contact with Rolle College as an option. Our hat is still in the ring.”

In response to reports some St John’s Court patients had been asked to travel to Honiton, Dr Somerfield said: “We need to check it out, and we need to stop that happening, because it doesn’t make any sense.”

Councillors recommended that St John’s Court should not close until a replacement was found; that the committee hoped the existing level of service would be maintained; that there should be ongoing stakeholder consultation, and that the DPT should talk to Exeter Deaf Academy about Rolle College.

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