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Mental health services in ‘crisis and unsafe’

New data suggests patients are being failed

Jo Carlowe

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Mental health services in England are unsafe and in crisis.

The medical director of the South London and Maudsley NHS Trust, Dr Martin Baggaley, has spoken out about the situation following an investigation by Community Care magazine and BBC news.

The investigation reveals that more than 1,500 mental health beds have closed and that many trusts are full to capacity.

Freedom of Information requests were sent to 53 of England's 58 mental health trusts, by BBC News and Community Care, and 46 trusts replied.

The figures show that a minimum of 1,711 mental health beds have been closed since April 2011, including 277 between April and August 2013. This represents a 9% reduction in the total number of mental health beds - 18,924 - available in 2011/12.

Commenting on the situation, Dr Baggaley stated: "We are in a real crisis at the moment. I think currently the system is inefficient, unsafe.”

He added: "There seems to be a genuine increase in demand. That's partly explained by a reduction in beds, by resources coming out of the health system, the squeeze on social services budgets, and by the general economic situation."

Mind’s chief executive Paul Farmer, has described the situation as “appalling”.

He said: "This investigation paints a disturbing picture of the appalling state of crisis care services in some parts of the country. Mind has long campaigned for improvements to services for people in crisis but these figures truly show the extent to which people with mental health problems are being failed when they are at their most unwell.

"Excellent crisis care does exist in parts of England but we need to see it everywhere. The government has said it is committed to giving mental health equal priority but until we see services properly funded, adequately staffed and able to cope with the numbers of people in need of help, mental health services will never improve. This is a true test of the new NHS commissioning structures. We need to see national and local commissioners working together to ensure that everyone in crisis gets the help they need."

Commenting, Care Minister Norman Lamb said: "Current levels of access to mental health treatment are unacceptable. There is an institutional bias in the NHS against mental health and I am determined to end this.

"More people are being treated in the right settings for them, including fewer people needing to go into hospitals. It is essential that people get the treatment they need early and in the community but beds must be available if patients need them."

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