A TOP NHS consultant is retiring after decades of service to mental health patients in north London.

Dr Ros Furlong has announced she is stepping down from her role as consultant psychiatrist at the Barnet, Enfield and Haringey NHS Mental Health Trust.

Dr Furlong has spent the past 30 years working the mental health sector in north London and between 2001 and 2007 served as medical director before returning to clinical work and focusing on charity efforts in Africa.

She was also at the forefront of work to reconfigure care when Friern Barnet Hospital closed down.

On her retirement, Dr Furlong said: “I feel I've given a lot of years to the NHS but it is now time for me to do something else before it is too late.

“I am not stopping because I am tired of it, but I just feel now is the time to make a change.”

The 53-year-old said she has seen “dramatic changes” in mental health care during her career, and she still retains a keen interest in the future, particularly in light of budget cuts sweeping the NHS at present.

She said: “We are facing particularly challenging times now and it is with sadness that I am leaving the service and will not be there to get through the current challenges. I don't like to leave something unfinished.

“I worry that things are going to get worse given the level of savings targets. There is much more we could do, not extravagant things, to improve mental health services if we are allowed but unfortunately it is all about cuts at the moment.

“Recovery rates in mental health are jolly good if you get proper treatment. Recovery is a realistic option for most people and overall you will save money if you can get people back to work which is a good return for a little bit of investment.”

Dr Furlong said she is pleased to see more integration in north London health services with mental health patients being treated alongside other patients, removing the stigma that can be attached to mental health problems.

She is planning in her retirement to focus more energy on the trust's charitable work in Africa, particularly on the Sierra Leone Psychiatric Hospital she helped to found.

Dr Furlong will also remain an honourary consultant and will have more time for her family and to be an active grandmother to four-year-old Theo.