Almost 6,000 mental health patients sent out of area for care last year

Almost 6,000 mental health patients had to be sent far out of their local area for treatment last year, with some travelling hundreds of miles, according to NHS figures.

Data obtained by the British Medical Association shows the number of patients with mental health problems travelling long distances for care in England has risen by 40% in two years.

In 2016-17, 5,876 travelled out of their area for treatment, compared with 4,213 in 2014-15.

One patient had to travel 587 miles from Somerset to the Scottish Highlands for help, the figures show. Patients sent away for treatment could expect an average round-trip journey of seven and a half hours to see friends and family.

Dr Andrew Molodynski of the BMA’ consultants committee said it was an “endemic” issue, adding: “The government needs to get a handle on this situation because patients are being routinely failed by a system at breaking point, with tragic consequences.”

He said that if there were “no free beds”, doctors had to take time away from severely ill patients to find a space, “often resorting to private hospitals”. Molodynski added: “Patients then face long waits before being taken miles in locked ambulances to unfamiliar places.”

The Liberal Democrats health spokesman, Norman Lamb, said he was “horrified” by the figures, which he claimed exposed the government’s abject failure to tackle mental health injustices.

“Ultimately, equality for mental health cannot be achieved when budgets are under such enormous pressure. We need to see a sustainable long-term funding settlement for the NHS and social care, and ministers should work politicians and others from across the political divide,” he said.

Article from The Guardian, 27 June 2017.