BMA figures for England show starling rise in mental health out of area placements

New figures uncovered by the BMA show a startling rise in the number of mental health patients in England being sent out of area for treatment, with one patient from Somerset being sent to a care facility in the Highlands, 587 miles away.

The figures, provided by trusts and clinical commissioning groups (CCG) in response to Freedom of Information requests, found that 5,876 adults were sent out of area for mental health treatment in 2016/17, a rise of almost 40 per cent from 4,213 in 2014/15.

The findings also revealed that the amount spent on placing patients in out-of-area beds rose by 47 per cent from £108m in 2014/15 to £159m in 2016/17.

Patients sent away from home for treatment could expect an average round-trip drive of up to seven and a half hours to see friends and family. If relying on public transport, the average travel time to an ‘out of area’ placement could be as great as 13 hours.

The five trusts which sent the most adults out of area in 2016/17 were:

• Kent and Medway NHS and Social Care Partnership Trust – 586
• Barnet, Enfield and Haringey Mental Health NHS Trust – 410
• Manchester Mental Health and Social Care Trust – 372
• Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust – 359
• Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust – 316

The five greatest distances patients had to travel to receive care were:

• Somerset Partnership NHS Foundation Trust to NHS Highland – 587 miles
• Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust to New Craigs Hospital Inverness – 532 miles
• Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust to Cornhill Hospital NHS Grampian – 497 miles
• Dorset Healthcare University NHS Foundation Trust to Priory Middleton – 323 miles
• Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust to Glenbourne Unit Berrisode – 312 miles

The investigation also found that Leicestershire, Derbyshire and parts of north London have been left with no NHS beds for female patients in need of intensive psychiatric care.

In response to the findings, NHS consultant psychiatrist and mental health policy lead of the BMA’s consultants committee Dr Andrew Molodynski said:  “The practice of sending patients with severe mental health problems to beds hundreds of miles away from their home and families has become endemic in the NHS. 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.

“Being sent long distances for treatment has an impact on patients’ care and recovery. There have been tragic cases where coroners have ruled that the difficulties families have visiting a relative receiving care, as well as poor communication between hospitals in other regions and local mental health services contributed to deaths.”