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Patients sent for mental health treatment 500 miles away

Nearly 6,000 patients were sent out of area for mental health treatment last year, including some who had to travel 500 miles or more.

A Freedom of Information Act request to trusts, submitted by the BMA, also found that money spent on placing patients in out-of-area beds increased by nearly half (47%), from £108m to £159m in 2016/17.

In all, 5,876 adults were sent out of area for mental health treatment – a rise of almost 40% from 4,213 in 2014/15.

The longest distance a patient had to travel was 587 miles, from Somerset to the Scottish Highlands. A patient from Oxford also had to come to Scotland for treatment, travelling 497 miles to NHS Grampian.

Meanwhile, Dorset Healthcare University NHS Foundation Trust sent a patient to Middleton, and Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust had to send a patient all the way to Plymouth.

The BMA’s investigation also revealed which five trust send the most patients out of area for mental health treatment. In 2016/17 they 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

NHS consultant psychiatrist and mental health policy lead of the BMA’s Consultants Committee Dr Andrew Molodynski warned that the issue of patients with severe mental health problems being sent ‘hundreds of miles away from their home and families’ had ‘become endemic in the NHS’.

He said: ‘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.’

It comes as Pulse revealed in April that five areas in England were cutting spending on mental health services in 2017/18 despite Government pledges to boost spending and achieve ‘parity’ between physical and mental health services.