Mental health assessment rooms set for overhaul amid fears over ‘safety and dignity’

Homerton Hospital. Photograph: Fin Fahey.

Rooms where people are assessed after being sectioned are set for an upgrade in Hackney and six other London boroughs.

There are currently four existing health-based places of safety (HBPoS) across seven north-east London boroughs where patients are detained and checked under Section 136 of the Mental Health Act.

One room is located at Homerton Hospital, two others in Redbridge, one in Newham, and one at the Royal London in Tower Hamlets.

Under the plans, Homerton, Newham and Redbridge would each get three newly minted sites.

The HBPoS at the Royal London would be shut down completely amid concerns that it is “potentially compromising patient safety, privacy and dignity”.

The Royal London’s unit is also situated a mile away from mental health teams and wards, making immediate transfers of patients “problematic”.

According to a report submitted to an 8 January meeting of the Health in Hackney Scrutiny Commission, the Homerton’s own HBPoS is currently “situated in a rather public space and is not easily accessible”.

The Homerton site could also be re-located to offer better patient privacy, and staffed with a dedicated team.

It is understood that, at the moment, it is hard to ensure staff with sufficient experience and training are available at Homerton’s HBPoS, meaning some are being dragged away from wards to assess patients.

Dan Burningham, mental health programme director for City & Hackney clinical commissioning group (CCG), said: “This proposal moves the Homerton site to a more discreet location, relying on £400,000 that has already been given by the Department of Health to provide a refurbished location. It provides a dedicated staffing team, and it means there is more capacity.

“The Tower Hamlets site at the Royal London HBPoS is a CQC risk. It needs to close soon, and the fact that we kept it open for so long is problematic.

“We need to do something soon, and we can’t wait several years.”