Fears over mental therapy sessions as funding is axed

Witney Gazette: From left, Leanne Berry, Suzanne Leo and Harriet Warner are worried about the future of their therapy group.  Picture OX67164 Mark Hemsworth From left, Leanne Berry, Suzanne Leo and Harriet Warner are worried about the future of their therapy group. Picture OX67164 Mark Hemsworth

MENTAL health patients have been left “devastated” by cuts to one of the county’s therapy sessions.

The Department of Health has directly funded Oxfordshire Complex Needs Service (CNS) with £700,000 a year for three years.

But it has withdrawn £350,000 for this financial year – which started on April 1 – and cut the remaining funding next April.

The service, which received 700 referalls in 2013/14, provides weekly group therapy for people with long-term emotional issues or mental health problems, which the NHS says affects about one in 20 people.

There are sessions held in Oxford, Witney, Banbury and Wallingford but there are fears the service might be centralised into the city.

Ducklington’s Harriet Warner, who attends the Witney group at Langdale Hall once a week, said: “For some people, this is the only thing keeping them going.

“The look on people’s faces when we were told was devastating.”

The Government said it was only planned as a three-year pilot to run until March 31 next year. And it said future funding will be a decision for Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (OCCG), which makes most county NHS funding decisions.

The service is provided by Oxford Health, and OCCG has put in £250,000 to cover some of the shortfall this financial year.

Mrs Warner has borderline personality disorder and is signed off work with depression. The mum-of-three said her nine months at the Langdale Hall sessions had been a “massive” benefit.

She added: “It has helped all of us cope. We get help with anger management, depression. Part of it is just being in a group of people.”

She fears more will be crammed into sessions and said: “If there are too many of us we won’t get the benefit from it.

“There are people in the group who have serious anxiety travelling who wouldn’t be able to get to Oxford.”

Patients were told of the cuts during last week’s Mental Health Awareness Week, for which this year’s theme is anxiety.

A spokesman for Oxford Health and the OCCG said: “There will be no changes until OH has examined service model options within the available funding. The needs of people living with personality disorders are a priority for OCCG and OH.

“Working within difficult financial constraints, we are reviewing our service configurations to deliver the best possible treatments.”

A Department of Health spokeswoman said: “It is now for local commissioners to provide services.”

Healthwatch Oxfordshire, the county’s official health and social care regulator, said it would be an “additional challenge”.

Director David Roulston said: “One of the stated objectives of the Clinical Commissioning Group is to move care closer to home for people.

“It would be a concern if the re-commissioning of this service resulted in it being centralised, leading to gaps for people with personality disorder in other areas of Oxfordshire.”

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