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Henderson Hospital closes today - a failure by the NHS?

23 April 2008

Today at 2pm, the South West London and St George’s Mental Health NHS Trust will close the Henderson Hospital. The Trust has stated this is a temporary measure as the number of residents has fallen to an unsafe level. The vulnerable residents have and continue to suffer immense distress as a result of the uncertainties created by this decision. This has followed a two-year fight by residents to keep this vital service open. Leigh Day & Co will continue to monitor the consultation process and the final decision on the Henderson.

Current resident, Catherine Boyd, aged 29, has spent the last decade in and out of hospitals, before being referred to the Henderson. Catherine said

“The Henderson offered me a chance to finally receive the specialist help that I’ve needed.

We were given less than three weeks notice that the Henderson was going to close and no information about what was going to happen to me. I had one overwhelming feeling that everything I’d always thought was coming true – that I wasn’t worth helping, and that there was no future for me.

I have now been offered a placement at the Cassel Hospital, but this is a five day-a-week programme and I have nowhere to go at weekends because I’m homeless. I will make the most of it but I feel permanently scarred by this experience; which is difficult to accept as it could have been avoided.”

Back in December 2007, residents were informed that the Henderson would be closing due to ‘supply and demand’. Mark Sommerville, a resident at Henderson since 1 May 2007, said

“They explained the decision to us with an analogy to a Mars bar factory, and said if no one wanted Mars bars anymore, the factory would have to close. It was an absolute insult and showed a complete lack of understanding of the vital treatment we were receiving.

Isn’t it complete common sense that a threat of closure will destroy stability and reduce the demand for the service? What responsible doctor would refer a person needing stability to a place under threat of closure?”

Leigh Day & Co are closely monitoring the arrangements for those residents who will be moving out, but currently there is no legal action that can overturn the decision to close the Henderson on 23 April 2008.

Frances Swaine, Partner and Head of the Human Rights and Public Law Department said:

“Having previously put forward financial grounds for the closure of the Henderson, the Trust is now closing on health grounds having allowed the service to become run-down and I cannot see how the Henderson will realistically reopen.

The current position is a travesty. Due to the stress and uncertainty caused to residents, there is a real risk of serious harm to the residents of the Henderson. Providing clear information from the outset may have minimised the distress caused.

We have made repeated efforts over the past two years to save this vital service that provides national treatment to some of our society’s most vulnerable members. In my view the NHS has failed these residents at every level, and the cost in terms of individual lives and for society will be immense.”

For further information on this case, please contact Frances Swaine on 020 7650 1287 or Merry Varney on 020 7650 1338

Information was correct at time of publishing. See terms and conditions for further details.

Information was correct at time of publishing. See terms and conditions for further details.

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Who worked on this case

Merry Varney