It is a Friday lunchtime in Bolton, Greater Manchester and the streets are busy with shoppers. It is also World Mental Health Day and campaigners from Save our Health Services Bolton are out on the streets of the town centre once more to campaign against the latest threat to local NHS services, the privatisation of the Bolton Psychological Therapy Services. Over the last year the SOHSB have campaigned against the downgrading of Bolton hospital,cuts in health workers posts, cuts in mental health beds across the Greater Manchester area and the Healthier Together initiative.
BPTS is a service that treats people with mild/moderate mental health conditions: exactly the kind of service that all the politicians, such as Nick Clegg last week, hold up as crucial to preventing increasing mental ill-health within the population.
Services such as BPTS are important for many reasons. Research shows that providing this service at an early stage stops people going onto becoming iller, both mentally and physically. Also by getting treatment earlier it means that people can stay in work rather than having to leave work due to ill health and ending up claiming sick benefits.
Karen Reissmann, secretary of SOHB and Unison national executive member, explained why this is an important service for Bolton; “Bolton has always prided itself on developing this service, long before it became a national service.”
BPTS is recognised as a good service, it has no waiting lists and is staffed by highly experienced practictioners. So why would you privatise it?
Karen believes that it is part of the growing privatisation agenda within the NHS. “We are the thin edge of the wedge, if they do this it will open the door to every other service being privatised.” The Health and Social Care Act 2012 and the TTIP legislation are forcing the privatisation agenda onto the NHS locally and nationally in the drive to save money and cut services.
Another worrying aspect of the secretive tendering process for BPTS is that the service has been undervalued between one-third to one-half of its real cost. Never mind the expense involved in the tendering process itself.
For many people in this country the financial crisis for individuals and their family is having a disastrous effect on their mental well being and there is a greater need for these services. As Karen says about BPTS; “It is not good to cut a service that helps the people of Bolton feel happier and less stressed.”
The Save our Health Services Bolton campaign is one of the most dynamic in the northwest. It needs to be as it is fighting on many fronts to stop the closing down of key aspects of the town’s NHS services. The group includes health workers (from Unison and Unite), service users and many local people who do not want to see the undermining of their health care. They say; “We are not going to let them get away with privatising our service.”
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