JEREMY Corbyn has weighed into the debate over the controversial decision to close Swindon’s only Place of Safety for people experiencing mental health crises.

The leader of the opposition, who was in Swindon as part of a tour of the South West focusing on health issues, said the town was too big to go without such vital facilities.

“To centre an assessment place in Devizes which is a nice but quite small town, compared to Swindon which is a very large place, is an odd decision,” he said.

“I welcome the fact that there are facilities in Devizes but you also need them in Swindon. I would hope that the assessment facilities in Swindon will remain open and will be guaranteed as such.”

Mr Corbyn said there was “a disconnect” between service closures on the ground and the Government’s pledge to bring the quality of mental health care in line with that available for physical health concerns.

“There is a real need for parity of esteem between mental and physical health, it’s only there in the Health and Social Care Act because Labour forced it through as an amendment.

“We have a mental health crisis in Britain, a quarter of us are going to suffer from mental health conditions or crises in our lives and there needs to be more resources not less put in.”

The appearance of contradiction over the decision to close the Place of Safety at Sandalwood Court, which was taken by the independent Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Trust and not by politicians, isn’t lost on Swindon’s two Conservative MPs.

Indeed it was raised explicitly in a letter they sent to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt calling on him to look closely at the decision.

Both Robert Buckland and Justin Tomlinson have spoken out against the decision by AWP and against the consultation that led to it.

Mr Corbyn spent his afternoon in Swindon at the Olive Tree Cafe in Cheney Manor. There he met patient groups focusing on issues including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, cancer, learning difficulties and leukaemia.

“It was a really interesting visit,” said the Labour leader. “It’s those important health support groups and networks that are so valuable. I spent a lot of time listening and not a lot of time talking - unusual for a politician I know - I learnt a lot.”

An issue raised often by patients in Swindon is GP access. Hospital services are being stretched further because people are turning to them having been unable to access primary care resources.

It is expected to become an even greater problem locally as the town continues to expand through the addition of large extension areas such as the New Eastern Villages and Wichelstowe.

Mr Corbyn said it was a picture being replicated around the UK.

"There is a GP recruitment crisis across the whole country," he said. "There aren’t enough GPs being trained and many of them give up because of stress levels.

"Being a GP is not an easy job to do, it’s very hard work and an important role. We have to ensure they have good working conditions and get the support they need.

"But above all, we need to be training more doctors and more nurses. Cutting the nurse bursary and increasing fees is not the way to solve the staffing crisis of the future in our NHS."

North Swindon MP Justin Tomlinson hit back at the Labour leader's suggestion that the Government wasn't doing enough to address staffing issues in the health service.

He pointed out that more GPs are being trained but that the long pipeline from entering training to beginning to practice meant it wasn't an issue that could be resolved overnight.

Mr Tomlinson added: "The Government has rightly made it a priority to ensure that mental and physical health are treated equally.

"That's why more people are accessing mental health support services than ever before, and rightly we have committed to an extra 10,000 mental health workers within the NHS; something that we can only do with a strong and growing economy generating the taxes to invest in our NHS.

"Jeremy Corbyn would put all this at risk with his plans for reckless borrowing and anti jobs agenda."

But Mr Corbyn is keen to get his message across to the public despite criticism from Conservative opponents.

Friday's visit is unlikely to be the last we see of him in Swindon as Labour look to build on an improved performance in both constituencies at the General Election.

If they are to make the jump from opposition to government, it is in towns such as Swindon, the bellwether seats of the country, that they will need to turn those improvements into victories.

Asked about his party’s chances at the next General Election, whenever it may be, Mr Corbyn said Labour was going to be “winning all over the South and South West”.

“We’re gaining seats in local authority by-elections and we made gains in the General Election,” he added. “We’re campaigning all over the country this summer, including here in Swindon.

"I’m looking forward to Labour MPs in Wiltshire once again.”