‘There’s no ball for the Cinderella of the NHS’ – Herts mental health patients sent 180 miles for beds
PUBLISHED: 08:31 29 September 2015 | UPDATED: 09:51 29 September 2015
Mental health patients in Herts had to travel up to 180 miles for a bed because a lack of money has led to a shortage in the county.
The Hertfordshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust – which manages mental health services – has revealed the number of patients sent out of the county for treatment increased from 29 in 2013-14 to 95 in 2014-15, with most of these placements due to a lack of beds in Herts.
Costs for out-of-area placements for the same period rocketed from £601,000 to £1.68 million, with patients sent as far afield as Leeds and Manchester.
Patrick Newman, spokesman for the East and North Herts Independent Health Monitoring Group, said: “The increase in out-of-area placement is simply astonishing.
“Patients are taken away from any support network they may have in place, and it’s just adding to the difficulty of returning to good mental health. Some of these patients are children, of course. I don’t know how they manage to survive.
“There have been cuts to the mental health tariff and the service is not far off being in crisis. Excessive use of the private sector and a shortage of beds shows this.
“There’s no ball for this Cinderella of the NHS.”
A spokesman for the NHS trust said: “The demand on acute admission beds has continued to be high over the past financial year, in line with the national picture, and funding has not always matched this surge, with mental health and learning disability services often taking a back seat to the financial demands of physical healthcare. This has sometimes meant we have been unable to meet this demand within our own bed capacity.”
When asked if sending a patient out of the area for treatment is detrimental, the spokesman said: “Decisions to place service users in non-HPFT beds are not taken lightly and all alternatives are always considered first. However, this needs to be balanced against ensuring the person is able to access the appropriate care and treatment they require as quickly as possible.
“All HPFT service users placed in out-of-area beds are regularly monitored by our clinical team and their ongoing care and discharge plans are supported by us.”
The NHS trust said it is taking steps to mitigate its current bed pressures by improving the management system and ensuring alternative services to admission – such as crisis teams, acute day treatment units and host families – are fully utilised.