PROTESTORS believe it is “absolutely the wrong time” to close St Andrews Ward in Wells.

The governing body of the Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) made the decision to move 14 mental health beds to Yeovil on September 24.

The move was considered because St Andrews Ward in Wells is around 45 minutes away from the nearest emergency department (Bath Royal United Hospital), whereas Rowan Ward in Yeovil is less than one mile away from Yeovil District Hospital.

READ MORE: Somerset CCG approves relocation of mental health beds from Wells to Yeovil 

However the Save Our Community Services group in Mendip believe this is the wrong time for the closure, particularly with an increase in demand for mental health services due to the coronavirus crisis.

They believe travelling to the Yeovil ward will have an effect on the environment.

And they are concerned The Bridge (the other mental health ward on the Priory site) will not be maintained once St Andrews Ward has closed.

Somerset County Gazette:  Demonstration outside Wynford House, Yeovil. Pic: Kate Pearce Demonstration outside Wynford House, Yeovil. Pic: Kate Pearce

Emma Jane King, secretary of Glastonbury and Street Labour Party and a member of Save Our Community Services, said: " We know that the Covid-19 pandemic has had, and continues to have, a dramatic impact on mental health and therefore this is absolutely the wrong time to make dramatic changes to mental health services provision.

“All councils in Somerset have signed up to the "climate emergency" and they are therefore duty-bound to consider the environmental impact of this decision.

“The bus service to Yeovil is infrequent and expensive and so most patients and visitors will be reliant on private car use and this will inevitably increase the carbon footprint over and above what it would have been if St Andrew's Ward were to be retained.

“We believe that the closure of Phoenix Ward was ill thought out and has allegedly left St Andrew's Ward vulnerable as a stand-alone ward.

“This is an example of the planned neglect of the NHS, with the gradual running down of services. If St Andrew's Ward is closed then it will be gone for good and we do not believe that the Bridge will be maintained into the long term future and will also be vulnerable to closure once St Andrew's Ward is gone.

“We therefore propose that St Andrew's Ward is retained and improved and that Phoenix Ward is reopened.”

Somerset County Gazette: Demonstration outside Wynford House, Yeovil. Pic: Kate PearceDemonstration outside Wynford House, Yeovil. Pic: Kate Pearce

The Somerset CCG knew that residents in Wells were unhappy with the move after the feedback they received from the public consultation.

But they have said there are no plans to relocate other services delivered from The Bridge Centre in Wells, and that the move will help provide better care to people who need it most.

Maria Heard, programme director of Fit for My Future, and member of Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group’s Governing Body said: “The pandemic accelerated many of the positive transformational plans we had in place having been awarded £13million funding last year to improve community mental health services for adults in Somerset.

“Our new model for adult mental health services is very much focused on supporting people as close to home as possible, in their communities through a range of local services.

“For example, we now have more mental health workers based in GP practices, people can access mental health support and services via digital technology and there is a new community based talking therapies service for people with complex mental health trauma.

“Our acute in-patient beds are a small but important part of our new model of adult mental health care. They are a countywide resource of four wards which are currently located in Taunton (two wards), Wells (one ward) and Yeovil (one ward).

“We know that in Wells and the surrounding area there were strong feelings about the proposal to relocate the fourteen adult mental health in-patient beds from Wells to Yeovil and some people are disappointed the decision taken by the governing body.

“The decision was taken by the governing body to help us provide safer care to people who need this level of mental health support across the whole of Somerset. The decision was based on the safety of standalone wards, the distance of the Wells ward from an emergency department and the lack of 24/7 medical cover.

“While the location of fourteen mental health beds will be changing, it is important to note that the change will not result in any reduction in bed numbers.

“I can confirm that there are there are no plans to relocate other services delivered from the Bridge Centre at the Priory site in Wells.

“As agreed at the Governing Body meeting, and as a result of the feedback received during the public consultation we held earlier this year, a service user and carer reference group will be established to support the implementation of the proposal, and particularly to review how the potential negative impacts of increased travel time can be mitigated for carers, family members and friends.”

The Save our Community Services group organised a small demonstration outside the headquarters of the Somerset CCG on September 24, when the decision was being made.

They have plans for a demonstration on October 24 at noon, where they will march from Cathedral Green to near St Andrews Ward, as well as plans to start a letter writing campaign to the CCG and MP James Heappey.

If you would like to sign the petition visit