An investigation by Community Care magazine and the BBC has revealed that NHS mental health trusts are sending a growing number of people to hospitals outside of their local area.
Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act from 30 mental health trusts in England show that last year 3,024 people were sent out of their local area for treatment. This was an increase of 33 per cent from 2012-13 and more than double the 1,301 sent away in 2011-12.
One person was sent 300 miles away and several people were sent more than 200 miles away.
There was also evidence that people are being put in unsuitable accommodation when hospital beds are unavailable.
In one trust, someone was admitted to a deaf unit after the hospital couldn’t find a mental health bed. Another trust paid to put people up in bed and breakfast accommodation in order to free up beds
Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind, said:
It is a disgrace that people with mental health problems are being sent miles away from family and friends or being accommodated in inappropriate settings when they are acutely unwell. This is the latest in a long line of clear signals that, at least in some parts of the country, NHS mental health services are in crisis.
The government continues to make important and very welcome commitments to improving care but it is obvious that there is an increasing gap between the government’s good intentions and the reality for people trying to access services. Continued cuts to funding for mental health services are taking a significant toll on the quality and availability of services, meaning more and more people are reaching crisis point and need to be hospitalised. Meanwhile, some trusts are closing wards and reducing bed numbers at a time when they are seeing increased demand.
The cuts are self-evidently a false economy but the real scandal is that services are failing people with mental health problems and putting lives in danger as a result.
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