08:05AM, Thursday 24 April 2014
A retired doctor says that setting up a fund to pay for public transport to Prospect Park Hospital does not soften the blow of shutting Maidenhead's mental health ward.
Since January mental health patients formerly treated in the Charles Ward at St Marks Hospital in St Marks Road, Maidenhead, must now use Prospect Park Hospital, 15 miles away in Reading.
Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust has a £100,000 cash pot available as financial help for families to visit their relatives in Prospect Park.
Dr Jeremy Harding, who worked at Charles Ward for more than 20 years, said the NHS should never have moved the service to Reading.
He said: "If they [patients] went to Charles Ward their mental health problems and physical health problems could be dealt with there and then, local to their own home, so their family could be able to visit and their chances of getting back home are much improved."
He believes the inconvenience of travelling to Reading puts a strain on family visits, as they must take trains and buses to the hospital, and means they are immediately thinking about leaving once they arrive.
Dr Harding added that NHS money should be spent on staff, not private transport, and suggested the NHS created the fund to be 'politically correct' and to 'avoid criticism' for the Charles Ward closure.
The foundation trust chairman, John Hedger, wrote to the Advertiser this week explaining that the fund was set up to help less-well off families visit their relatives, which they can use to pay for public transport.
An NHS spokesman said that since August 2013 a total of £5,996 has been spent under the scheme.
The cash is available for anyone over 65, disabled, or on benefits.
Patients can also use the scheme to return home or to collect belongings.
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