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Guardians protect former mental health hub from vandals

Guardians protect former mental health hub from vandals
A group of up to thirty 'property guardians' are protecting a mental health facility from squatters or vandalism, it has emerged.

Waltham Forest's only acute mental health unit closed temporarily in March 2013 amid concerns over patient safety, high absconding levels and an incident in December 2012 when a patient attacked staff.

In April 2014, North East London Foundation Trust (NELFT) announced it would close Naseberry Court and Greenthorne in Larkshall Road, Highams Park, permanently despite GPs in Chingford calling the facility to remain during a public consultation by Waltham Forest Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).

Dr Steve Feast, executive medical director at the trust described the facility as "isolated" from their psychiatric emergency team and intensive care unit and said its design makes safe and consistent observations "difficult". 

All patients with mental health problems in the borough are now treated at Sunflowers Court at King George Hospital in Barley Lane, Goodmayes.

With no immediate plans to redevelop the site, DEX Property Management, who specialise in managing and protecting vacant properties and large scale regeneration projects, stepped in offering their services for free. 

Each guardians is required to pay a deposit, a monthly licence fee, and have their own fire safety kit. 

Jeff Walker moved to Naseberry Court almost two years ago from Leyton and was the first guardian to move in. 

He lives in a former doctor's office and pays £300 a month rent.  

The 43-year-old, said: "It is far more affordable than any other way of living in London and is becoming more popular.  

"The guardianship companies are catching onto it and rents are going up.  

"It used to a nut house so there is mesh wiring on all of the patient windows. 

"There are no taps in the bathroom, only the kitchen and the whole building has big thick fire-proof heavy doors. 

"There is about 30 of us living here. 

"The downside of guardianship is you can be left with nowhere to go with little notice and you live at the mercy of lazy people."

A spokeswoman for NELFT, said: "Naseberry Court and Greenthorne is not being used for clinical services at the moment - a property company is managing it until its future is decided.

"The property company placed guardians there to prevent vandalism or squatting at no cost to the trust. 

"This is very common practice amongst trusts and other public bodies that have vacant buildings." 

NELFT's five-year plan to build three hubs of integrated care teams is underway with planning permission granted for Thorpe Coombe Hospital site in Forest Road, Walthamstow. 

The trust also added it has "ambitions" to develop a modern healthcare facility in the north of the borough and discussions are underway to find the best site. 

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