Survey of psychiatrists reveals mental health beds crisis

A survey by the RoyalCollege of Psychiatrists (RCP) has found that cuts to mental health services inthe UK are “approaching a tipping point”.

The survey, by RCP’s Psychiatric Trainees’ Committee, asked junior doctorsworking in psychiatry across the UK to talk about their experiences of workingin mental health over the last six months.

A total of 3,504 trainees were contacted. Of the 576trainees that responded: 70% said they had experienced difficulty finding anappropriate bed for a patient at least once. In child and adolescent services(CAMHS) that figure was 83%.

Other findings from the survey included:

·        80% had sent a patient outside the local areafor a bed, 15% doing this more than monthly.

·        28% have sent a critically unwell patient homebecause no bed could be found.

·        37% had sent a patient at least 100 milesoutside their local area. Of those working in CAMHS, 22% had been forced tosend a child 200 miles away from their families.

·        37% said a colleague’s decision to detain apatient under the Mental Health Act had been influenced by the fact that doingso might make the provision of a bed more likely, and 18% said their owndecisions had been influenced in such a way.

·        24% reported that a bed manager had told themthat unless their patient had been sectioned they would not get a bed.

·        20% have admitted a patient to a bed belongingto a patient who has been sent home on a period of trial leave.

Three out of ten had seen a patient admitted to a wardwithout a bed – presumably leaving them to camp on a sofa in a communal room.

Professor Sue Bailey, president of the Royal College ofPsychiatrists said: “This survey provides further evidence that mental healthservices are approaching a tipping point. Continued cuts to services can onlyresult in further distress and discomfort for patients, many of whom are young,vulnerable, some of whom are forced to receive care far from home. Thissituation is simply not acceptable.”

Commenting on the findingsHafal Chief Executive Bill Walden-Jones said: “The survey includes Walesalthough the sample from Wales was quite small. Nevertheless, there are verysimilar problems in Wales to those in England.

“There has been a longstanding suspicion that the MentalHealth Act has been used inappropriately as a way of gaining access forpatients to hospital and of course this becomes a more serious problem whenthere is poor availability of beds.

“This is not just an unacceptable invasion of patients’rights in a wider legal and ethical sense; it is also deeply anti-therapeutic,conveying the worst possible message to patients because it wrongly suggeststhat compulsion was necessary when in fact it was a fault in services.

“The solution is also clear: we need sufficient beds – andthat means having spare bed spaces to meet unpredictable demand; and we needscrutiny, honesty and probity in administering the Mental Health Act.”

For more information on the survey please visit: