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Mental health patients 'stranded' due to bed cuts

Hundreds of psychiatric patients spend 'years' in acute units awaiting discharge

Mark Gould

Friday, 04 August 2017

The BMA says the revelation that hundreds of mental health patients across the UK are spending years stranded in acute units awaiting discharge is as a direct result of bed cuts and poor co-ordination of care in the community.

Dr Andrew Molodynski, the BMA consultants committee mental health lead, who is an NHS consultant psychiatrist, says that while more money and resources are promised for mental health services, the NHS needs "a national review of mental health inpatient numbers and further improvements to the provision of mental health services in the community".

An investigation by the BBC has revealed that over the past two years, at least 91 patients have waited more than a year to be discharged, with at least seven patients waiting more than two years. At least 320 patients had to wait at least 100 days to be discharged, BBC Freedom of Information requests show.

The top five longest delays are:

  • Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust: 62-year-old awaiting a residential home, delayed by 1,159 days.
  • Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust: 60-year-old awaiting suitable housing, delayed by 868 days.
  • Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust: 27-year-old originally admitted to A&E, awaiting suitable supported housing. Delayed by 668 days.
  • Pennine Care NHS Foundation Trust: 59-year-old delayed by 602 days.
  • Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust: 65-year-old awaiting a placement, delayed by 583 days.

Dr Molodynski says these delays are as a direct consequence of bed shortages in the community and huge financial pressure on community mental health services. "Not only is this inappropriate for patients, delaying their release and recovery but it also makes little financial sense, adding to pressure on already overstretched services and reducing the number of available beds for those who are in need of acute care.

“In recent years, bed occupancy on mental health wards has been dangerously high resulting in patients being admitted to units hundreds of miles from friends and family or, as this data outlines, remaining in institutions simply because there is no suitable care in the community, and no organisation can be found to which these patients can be referred.

“There has been investment in mental health services and there have been improvements in some areas of the country so patients can be treated in the most appropriate setting for their recovery but there are still whole regions where people haven’t benefitted from such changes. This regional variability of services needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency."

A spokeswoman for NHS England said the NHS is now increasing alternatives to hospital admissions and there is an extra £400 million for crisis resolution home treatment teams, "as well as investment in community mental health services".

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