Assembly Government defends NHS mental health beds cut

The Welsh Assembly Government has responded to criticism it received following the announcement that the number of NHS beds in Wales was cut by 229 last year.

There are now 13,354 NHS beds in Wales, 12%, fewer than 10 years ago. In terms of mental health the number has fallen by 948 (29%) to 2,324 in a decade.

Shadow Health Minister Jonathan Morgan and Welsh Liberal DemocratHealth SpokespersonJenny Randerson claimed the figures showed the Government has put “budgets before patient care” and that the NHS has been “asset stripped” over the last decade.

However, an Assembly Spokesperson emphasised (in a statement given to Mental Health Wales) that the fall in beds has been more than compensated by a rise in the amount of community support for mental health service users.

In this sense, the Government argues, the fall in NHS mental health beds actually represents a success.

The Spokesperson said:  “Our mental health strategy and National Service Framework has sought to modernise mental health care in Wales, transforming services in primary, secondary community, secondary inpatients and tertiary services.

“A reduction in the number of mental health beds has been achieved with a large increase in community support for mental health service users.

“This means more people with a severe and enduring mental illness are able to better manage their condition living in the community, supported by outreach services, and this is testament to the recent figures published.

“We aim to develop more and better community services, leading to more people being cared for and treated within their own community and wherever possible in their own home – and this increase in patient choice reduces the necessity for hospital admission.

“Where hospital intervention is necessary to progress patient’s treatment, privacy, safety and dignity are all factors paramount to the care available.”