IN two weeks’ time on September 15, the Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby Clinical Commissioning Group will start to make their decision on whether to close wards 14 and 15 at the Friarage Hospital in Northallerton.

The consultation document is full of half-truths and information taken out of context.

1. Wards 14 & 15 are “not fit for purpose.” They imply that the Care Quality Commission has drawn this conclusion. Wards 14 and 15 are actually no worse than their other provision and the CQC report highlights only minor issues. The Northallerton VTS website says that the unit has been “commended by the Mental Health Act Commission as a model of good practice.”

2. Their statements about travel time are, at best, optimistic and do not reflect travel times to Auckland Park, where the dementia patients would be transferred to. Most patients, even those from the northern part of the area will have longer travel times. The “shuttle bus” from the Friarage to James Cook has been withdrawn too.

3. The community model which aims to replace the provision is not detailed and characterised as “we would hope to…” There is not enough information to make a meaningful decision.

4. None of the three options is acceptable but there is no option for “none of the above.”

North Yorkshire’s mental health funding is paper thin.

This proposal will move a significant portion of the provision out of the county. This is mainly for the convenience of the NHS and not the convenience of some of their most vulnerable patients.

In the light of announcements from the Health Secretary about additional funding for mental health, we strongly believe that the consultation needs to stop and a genuine conversation needs to take place. Everyone says that mental health needs to be taken as seriously as medical health – this isn’t the way to do it.

Philip Knowles, Richmondshire Liberal Democrats