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Increase in children with mental health problems treated ‘out of area’

New data reveals 7 in 10 sent to hospitals far from home

Jo Carlowe

Tuesday, 09 May 2017

Seven out of 10 children and adolescents with severe mental health problems were admitted to hospitals outside of their area last year, new data shows.

The figures obtained by the British Medical Association, show worsening access to specialist beds. 

On Mental Health Awareness Week (May 8-14), figures obtained from NHS England under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act by BMA News reveal 69% of children and adolescent admissions were classed 'out of area' (OOA) in 2016/17 - a 12% point increase on the previous year.

The South West saw the highest increase in patients treated OOA at 106% while the number of admissions almost doubled in Yorkshire and Humber (92%). 

BMA community care committee chair Dr Gary Wannan said: "These figures show, alarmingly, that well over half of patients are being placed out of area at a time when they are at their most vulnerable.

"NHS England has promised action on this and we need to have a very clear plan about how it will roll this out to improve this situation for young people and their families. It can be an incredible wrench for children to leave their homes and being based far away is not going to help a young person in crisis. In some areas, we have seen the rate of investment improve so patients don't have to be treated so far from home; in other areas, patients haven't been so fortunate.”

In its general election manifesto, A vote for health, the BMA called on all political parties to deliver on the existing commitment to ensure parity of esteem between physical and mental health services. 

Dr Wannan added: “NHS England must ensure that, especially in these areas, the money gets through to local community teams so they can make a real difference to the lives of children, young people and their families."

Over the weekend both the Conservative and Liberal democrats revealed some of their plans for mental health. The Conservatives vowed to replace the Mental Health Act to tackle problems over discrimination and overuse of detention. The Liberal Democrats pledged to invest an extra £6 billion a year in health and social care. 

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