NHS England have announced plans to open a new mental health unit in Hull, almost three years after an existing unit was closed.
This follows a long campaign we’ve been supporting, led by Sally Burke, called Get Maisie Home. It started after Sally’s daughter Maisie, an autistic teenager from Hull, had to spend months in a mental health unit in Manchester – a 200 mile round trip for her family to see her. The reason for this long journey was that there was no unit closer to home, after a unit in Hull closed down in 2013. Her campaign called for a new unit to be opened in Hull so that children, like Maisie, could get mental health support closer to home.
We are delighted at this decision. While we are waiting for a few more details about the number of beds and who will provide the support, it shows the power of local campaigning. We have released a comment, which is below, alongside one from Sally.
Janine Wigmore, the National Autistic Society’s Area Policy and Participation Officer for the North, said:
"Today's announcement is testament to the tireless campaigning of Maisie and her mum Sally and the many people who've supported them.
"As their campaign has made clear, there hasn't been enough local support to meet the needs of children on the autism spectrum with complex mental health problems. Far too many children have had to travel long distances to access the mental health support they need. Staying in unfamiliar environments, away from their families and loved ones, is really difficult for anyone but can be particularly hard for autistic children who often rely on routine to manage anxieties.
"NHS England's plans should make a big difference to families in and around Hull, but only if they take into account the specific needs of children on the autism spectrum. Although autism is not a mental health condition, many of the children who need the support of CAMHS are on the autism spectrum, like Maisie. It’s vital that all staff are trained in autism and able to draw on the support of experts where necessary.
"We look forward to working closely with NHS England, alongside local families and charities, to make sure vulnerable children receive the specialist care they need in their own community."
Sally Burke, said: "Maisie and I are overjoyed at the announcement from NHS England regarding an inpatient children’s and adolescent mental health unit for our region.
"I'm so very proud of Maisie, she had the idea to go public. Maisie wanted to help other local youngsters receive the specialist mental health care needed, close to their loved ones.
"We would both like to thank the National Autistic Society for their continued support and help achieving this successful outcome.
"This unit proves that when communities work together, they can achieve difficult objectives. Thank you so much to everyone who has read Maisie's story and who signed the petition."