Patients sent hundreds of miles from home for treatment

Individuals who are suffering from severe mental health problems are being sent hundreds of miles away from their homes, families and support systems for an available mental health bed.

The Department of Health says it aims to end the practice by 2021, but a report by the Royal College of Psychiatrists suggests that the push to end inappropriate far-away placements has stalled.

The BBC has reported that the number of out of area placements at any one time has been between 700 and 800 patients in recent months.

Professor Wendy Burn, president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said “Trusts struggling with dangerously high levels of bed occupancy are being forced to send seriously ill people hundreds of miles away from their homes for care. That must stop”.

The college has suggested that at least an extra 1,000 mental health beds are needed to tackle the problem. 

In the late 80s, there were more than 67,000 mental health beds — the number is now closer to 18,400. This has been as a result of care being made available in the community, but the reductions have cut much deeper than intended.

While a focus on community care is important, and will reduce the need for inpatient admissions over time, cuts within community services are pushing more people than ever toward crisis point, as they are not receiving the early intervention care necessary. Extensive waiting lists for IAPT and secondary care services — and an ongoing push to online services in an attempt to reduce waiting lists — are causing many to deteriorate and not receive the timely care that they need.

Only correct funding from government, local authorities and a workable mental health plan across the NHS, charities, academics and community services can really help to tackle the mounting mental health crisis happening in the UK right now.