Fears for mental health patients sent 100 miles for treatment Doctors call for end to ‘failing’ system
DOCTORS have demanded an end to the transfer of Birmingham mental health patients more than a hundred miles away for treatment.
Th (BMA) revealed the ‘failing’ state of mental health care in the city in a report published this week.
It often means patients are cut off from friends and family who could play a vital role in their recovery.
Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust, which provides mental health care in the city, said patients were sent elsewhere when there were no beds available locally – but it was succeeding in reducing the number of patients affected.
The British Medical Association (BMA), which represents doctors, made Freedom of Information requests to health bodies in England to discover the number of patients sent out of area for care for the three years from 2014/15.
It found Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS foundation Trust sent a patient to the Priory Hospital in Darlington on Teesside, 170 miles from the city.
A patient was sent to Cygnet Hospital, in Taunton, Devon, 138 miles away while others were sent to Cross Lane Hospital in Scarborough; Cygnet Hospital, Harrogate; Miranda House, Hull, and Priory Hospital Cheadle Royal, Cheshire.
More cases saw patients end up in Brighton, Portsmouth and the Royal Glamorgan Hospital, South Wales.
NHS consultant psychiatrist Andrew Molodynski, the BMA’s mental health policy lead, said: “The practice of sending patients with severe mental health problems to beds hundreds of miles away from their home and families has become endemic in the NHS.
“Patients are being routinely failed by a system at breaking point, with tragic consequences.
“Being sent long distances for treatment has an impact patients’ care and recovery.”
Ministers have pledged to eliminate “inappropriate outof-area placements” for mental health patients by 2020/21, but the BMA investigation found that the number of out-of-area placements increased nationally from 4,213 adults in 2014/15 to 5,876 in 2016/17 – a rise of 39 per cent.
BMA council chairman Mark Porter said: “Thousands are shuttled around the country because of a chronic lack of on beds. Isolated from their friends and family at their most vulnerable time.
“Some have to languish in police cells for their own safety, while their clinical staff scour the country for placements and transport.
“Their care suffers when communication breaks down between hospitals, and when they are so far from home.”
A spokesman for Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust said patients were sent out of area to receive the most appropriate treatment to meet individual needs when the demand for inpatient beds exceeds local capacity.
He added: “For patients experiencing a deterioration in their mental health that requires inpatient care, having family and friends close by to help support their recovery is vital.
“We recognise the importance of this support network and have been working on range of service improvements and new initiatives that will reduce the need for out-of-area treatment.
“These initiatives, including the development of enhanced patient pathways and the improved flow of patients through our inpatient care, have already led to a significant reduction in our out-of-area inpatient bed use from 230 in 2015/2016 to 106 in 2016/2017, and we are commitment to reducing this further.
“In addition, we are currently working with local partners to increase local capacity of mental health inpatient beds, which will contribute towards a further reduction in out-of-area placements.”
An NHS England spokesman said it was investing an extra £400 million in ‘crisis resolution’ home treatment teams as part of plans for the biggest expansion of mental health services in Europe.
He added: “We’re also giving local mental health trusts new powers to tailor mental health services to better meet their area’s individual needs, improving local services and ending the practice of sending people long distances to receive treatment.”
Commenting on the findings, Samantha Nicklin, head of campaigns and public affairs at the charity Rethink Mental Illness, said: “These figures bring into sharp focus the continuing injustices people living with a mental illness are facing.
“Despite mental health attracting more attention as a political and social issue, it is clear that promises of increased funding are not creating change where it’s needed.”
Some have to languish in police cells for their own safety, while staff scour the country for placements and transport