Manchester

The Sanctuary's interior
The Sanctuary offered comfortable surroundings for people to receive face-to-face support

Former service users have reacted angrily to the closure of Manchester’s only overnight mental health support centre.

The Sanctuary in Hulme was the only service providing face-to-face support to people from 20:00 to 06:00 BST.

NHS bosses said they were “expanding care to a wider range” of services and other help was available.

However, one former service user said: “They’re just balancing cheques and spreadsheets saying where can we cut?”

The 31 August closure means if people facing crisis in the city want face-to-face support, they will now have to attend A&E.

The only other overnight help available is confined to telephone services such as Samaritans and NHS Direct.

The former service user continued: “A&E is the wrong place for someone having a mental health crisis.”

He added he had seen a man “left alone with his head in his hands” after being told he faced a three-hour wait in A&E.

“I wanted to tell him about the Sanctuary but couldn’t as I knew it was closing,” he said.

The Kath Locke Centre
The facility’s overnight crisis service was based in Hulme

The Sanctuary was part-funded by the NHS but run by the Big Life Group, a charity group set-up in Hulme and Moss Side to help fill gaps in public services.

The organisation said part of the reason for the closure was criticism from NHS clinicians, who said the service was not professional or clinical enough.

But the former service user said staff with “lived experience” were preferable to doctors in clinical settings.

He added: “Who is the best person to listen to you and understand in the time of a crisis?”

Manchester Health & Care Commissioning Group (MHCCG), which makes decisions about funding, has referred people to 24-hour helplines and Turning Point, a daytime-only charity.

Recent figures published by The Sanctuary showed staff had seen more than 4,000 people over the last year.

A spokesman for MHCCG said mental health care remained a “priority”.

“There are other, further developments to include the development of talking therapies and bringing more support into communities so that care is closer to people’s homes.

“In the meantime, we want to make sure that people know where they can get help via these numbers.”