457 fire survivors and witnesses in need of ‘urgent’ treatment for PTSD
by Felicity Collier
THE Grenfell Tower disaster has caused an “unprecedented” mental health crisis, a leading doctor said yesterday.
Since the June 14 fire in west London, a total of 457 adults have been diagnosed as in “urgent need” of treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), while 39 children are receiving specialist mental health care, NHS data shows.
Survivors and witnesses are considered to have a 50 per cent chance of developing the disorder.
Clinicians say those affected by the tragedy have suffered flashbacks and sleeplessness, which can be triggered by the sight of the burnt-out tower’s wreckage.
Local GP Dr Meena Nathan, who lost several patients in the fire, said: “A couple of patients were saying that they can still hear the children screaming.”
Physical symptoms, including headaches and joint and muscle pain, have also been reported, she said.
Dr Alastair Bailey, the clinical psychological lead at the NHS Grenfell Tower Trauma Service, said: “Nothing has affected a community like this for a number of years,” likening it to the Hillsborough football disaster and the Aberfan colliery spoil catastrophe in Wales.
He said covering up the tower would help patients suffering from PTSD, but this has yet to be done.
Around 170 mental health workers are supporting residents of the area, holding specialist surgeries and knocking on doors to ensure support is given to those who need it.
But the Central and North West London NHS Trust, the main health service body handling the aftermath of the disaster, says a fifth of patients referred to it have declined further treatment, with many citing their living arrangements as the problem.
More than three months on, at least 150 families from Grenfell Tower or Grenfell Walk are still living in hotels, while dozens are waiting for temporary accommodation, the latest figures from the Grenfell Response Team show.
Only five households have found permanent homes.
Next week, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea will debate a motion, put forward by Councillor Kim Taylor Smith, calling on leaders to “terminate the current contact and establish a new management structure for the council’s social housing stock.”
The tower is expected to be demolished at the end of next year, after police investigators have finished recovering evidence.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan said yesterday that the families of those who died cannot “wait decades for justice.”
Kensington & Chelsea council leader Elizabeth Campbell said she hoped to have everyone made homeless rehoused permanently by the first anniversary of the blaze.