Campaign to save Calderdale’s NHS art psychotherapy service

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People undergoing specialist psychotherapy for deep-rooted mental health problems fear their support could be cut off by an NHS trust seeking to cut costs.

Users of Calderdale’s Art Psychotherapy Service have launched a campaign to save it from closure after their therapists were given redundancy notices.

Around 60 people use the service, which is run by South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, to get help to cope with traumas they have suffered.

Service users fear their therapy could be cut of prematurely at the end of March and they will not be offered a suitable alternative.

Veronika Murtagh is among people who have benefitted from the therapy, which uses art to help people live with complex and distressing emotional issues.

She said: “It saved my life. It helped me reclaim a life that was stolen by being brought up in care.

“I’ve reclaimed the essence of who I am and I’m thriving.”

South West Yorkshire said it was reviewing the service and other types of creative therapy were available.

But fears have been raised that people currently on long-term support could be put on other therapies that only last for 15 weeks.

Another service user, who asked not to be named, said: “When I first started art psychotherapy I was suffering with paranoia, extreme anxiety, hearing voices, self harm and suicidal feelings.

“I was often debilitated to the point of being unable to take care of myself. The one constant in all this was the art psychotherapist. “My mental health has gradually improved as I have worked through my issues.

“I am only part way through my therapy. To have it end in this way could easily cause my mental health to go downhill.”

Karen Taylor, district director for services in Calderdale and Kirklees said: “We are currently reviewing and modernising our services and therapies to make sure they provide value for money and are fit for purpose for service users.

“As a part of this, we are reviewing art therapy in the Calderdale area.

“We will continue to support service users in looking at their care needs and if further help is identified, we will discuss that with them individually.”

Service users pointed out that the therapy saves money by avoiding hospital admissions and home interventions from crisis teams.

They said in a campaign statement: “A hospital admission costs £459 per night. The Art Psychotherapy Service costs £80,000 per year.

“It only takes three people to have a three month stay in hospital at a cost of £115,668 to far exceed the yearly cost of the Art Psychotherapy Service.”