Mental Health Safe Place In Scilly ‘Almost There’

St Mary's hospital

St Mary’s hospital

The Council’s Head of Adult Social Care says a process to deal with patients having a mental health crisis on the islands is “almost there.”

Gareth Peters has been working with the GPs, hospital staff and emergency services to come up with better way to help someone suffering from an acute mental episode while in Scilly.

In 2012, a former St Mary’s hotelier, Joan Shiles, said she felt angry and let down by the health services on the islands when she had to deal with a guest who had become mentally distressed.

At one point she was told to evict the guest and let the police deal with the situation, which she refused to do.

Since then, health workers in Scilly have been struggling to come up with a solution.

At the recent Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee, Lead GP Dr John Garman told members that “everyone rolls up their sleeves to help out, but it’s never been formalised so everyone knows in advance what they’re supposed to do.”

The main problem is the lack of a ‘place of safety’ – a secure unit where a patient can be taken to and cared for by trained staff.

Gareth says it can be a very distressing time for the individual and they’re trying to avoid using a police cell to keep them safe, which could seem like “a punishment.”

They’ve now identified a space at the hospital but Dr Garman stressed this wasn’t a traditional ‘place of safety.’

These are covered by complex regulations and need trained staff, which is not possible in Scilly, he said.

Instead it will be an unlocked room where the patient can be cared for while staff arrange to transfer them to the mainland for specialist treatment.

Cllr Marian Bennett said a safe place on the islands had been talked about for last 30 years and wondered if the reason it hadn’t happened was simply down to money.

John said this time their thinking was different. Previous documents had always talked about keeping a patient on the islands while psychiatrists and social workers were flown in to assess them from the mainland.

“You wouldn’t fly a cardiologist here for a patient having a heart attack,” he said, “so why do that for someone having a mental health crisis?”

He said it was more appropriate to get the patient to specialist services on the mainland as quickly as possible.