Mental health must see some of £250 million funding for discharge
Today the UK government have announced £250 million to support the NHS in discharging people from hospitals, though without any portion of the money being allocated to support struggling NHS mental health services.
The announcement claims the funding will allow local areas to buy “thousands of extra beds in care homes” as well as improving hospital and ambulance facilities, and promises assistance from GPs, nurses and other community-based clinicians to support the recovery of people who are discharged.
There is, however, no portion of the funding allocated for mental health bed discharge, and no specific focus on relieving the long waits faced by people who present at A&E requiring a mental health bed. Mind is aware of people who need urgent support with mental health problems facing waits of multiple days for beds, which can be immensely distressing and have a serious impact on someone who is already struggling with their mental health. The longest wait Mind has been made aware of was eight and a half days in A&E before a mental health bed could be found.
Commenting on the announcement, Paul Spencer, Head of Health, Policy and Campaigns at Mind, said:
“While we welcome this funding to allow the NHS to discharge more people and free up beds generally, we’re disappointed to see a lack of recognition of the specific challenges the NHS faces in getting people who need mental health support into mental health beds. Problems discharging fit patients from mental health beds contribute significantly towards these difficulties.
“Over the last year, mental health bed occupancy has frequently been above safe levels across England, and long waits in A&E for mental health beds have become commonplace. This puts people’s health at greater risk while staff scramble to find them a bed. Bed shortages can result in patients having to travel halfway across the country to get care, miles from their support networks, while others have to wait hours or even days to receive the support they need. This is the result of decades of underfunding of mental health services, and the situation simply isn’t sustainable.
“We’d also question whether GPs, nurses and other community-based clinicians have the capacity to support more patients with complex mental health problems recovering in the community following discharge. Many community-based mental health services are already under incredible pressure and struggling to support people presenting with increasingly complex mental health problems. Additional action and resource will be required to make sure that people are receiving the support they need after discharge, and that community-based mental health services are in a position to deliver that support.
“Ultimately, what we really needed to see today, alongside this funding, is a recognition of the challenges being faced by people who need a mental health bed, and the ringfencing of a portion of the funding to address the availability of mental health beds. Unfortunately, we received neither.
“There is an urgent need for political leadership in this area right now. We need to see a coordinated approach from the UK government if we want to tackle the overwhelming pressures faced by mental health services. Otherwise, people needing support with their mental health from the NHS will continue to be let down."