Mental Health Patients Sent More Than 200 Miles From Home Due To Bed Shortage

Maurice Richmond
By Maurice Richmond,
updated on Sep 17, 2018

Mental Health Patients Sent More Than 200 Miles From Home Due To Bed Shortage

Figures have revealed that people with serious mental health issues face trips across the country, more than hundreds of miles to find a specialist bed

Worryingly, with the rise of out-of-area care, NHS bosses have admitted this practice actually reduces chances of recovery.

Reported in The Guardian, the Labour Party revealed NHS findings under freedom of information legislation. It showed the stark reality faced by patients being sent away from their home regions to find care.

Examples of out-area-care owing to bed shortages include:

  • Patients heading from Dorset Healthcare University mental health trust to a Priory mental health hospital in Cheadle, Greater Manchester - 246 miles away, because of a lack of beds. The year before, patients from the same trust were sent to Priory unit in Durham, 325 miles away.

  • Last year, Lancashire Care NHS foundation trust sent patients 300 miles south to Ticehurst, East Sussex in a mental health unit in the village. People in Norfolk also ended up being cared for at Arbury Court in Warrington, 239 miles away.

  • Kent-based Oxleas mental health trust sent patients for care to a psychiatric intensive care unit in Bradford, West Yorkshire.

  • Information reported by 36 of England’s 53 specialist mental health trusts showed all, bar one in Manchester, sent patients out of area in the past five years.

Barbara Keeley, the shadow minister for mental health, who obtained the figures, condemned their findings.

She said: “The overwhelming evidence is that out-of-area placements do serious harm to the recovery of people with mental health conditions, yet the government is categorically failing to reduce their use.

“This is exactly the sort of ‘burning injustice’ the prime minister pledged to end.”

Saffron Cordery, the deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, which represents NHS trusts in England, hit out at the difference in how physical and mental health are treated.

She said: “We don’t do this to patients with physical health issues and we shouldn’t be doing it for patients with mental health issues.”

“We still don’t have enough of the right mental health beds commissioned in the right places, given the rate at which demand is increasing. That means that, very reluctantly, trusts sometimes have to send service users very long distances, as it’s the only way to get a scarce bed.

“It’s not good for the service users involved and it’s poor value for money. But until the promised additional investment for mental health actually translates into extra beds in the right place, it’s still going to happen.”

The Department of Health and Social Care insists it is working towards parity between physical and mental health, and added it is committed to ending “inappropriate placements.”

A spokesperson said: “It is completely unacceptable for patients to be sent away from their family and friends for treatment.

“That’s why the NHS is opening more specialist beds to tackle this and we have committed to eliminating inappropriate placements by 2020-21. We want to see parity between physical and mental health.”

Marjorie Wallace CBE, chief executive of mental health charity SANE, has long campaigned for government policy to prevent patients from being “shunted” hundreds of miles from their home while receiving care.

She went on to hit out at the “scandal” of closing beds and units across the country.

Marjorie previously told Happiful: “The closure of psychiatric beds and units has created a national scandal.

“There are times when there are few, if any, psychiatric beds available anywhere in England.

“Even when a bed can be found, it may mean shunting a patient hundreds of miles across the country against government policy that people should be treated close to home.”

In May, NHS England figures revealed, there were around 34,214 mental health beds in 2000, which fell to 18,353 in the second quarter of 2017/2018. Norfolk & Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust revealed in March that 36 mental health beds will be closed, eight of which permanently.

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