Mental health beds could face crisis

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WIGAN’S mental health service could be stretched to breaking point according to a new report amid fears there are not enough beds for patients.

An investigation by Community Care magazine found that mental health trusts, including Wigan’s 5 Boroughs, have all their beds filled and many had closed beds in recent years.

While no beds have been lost in Wigan, bosses at the 5 Boroughs Partnership NHS Foundation Trust say that the 73 beds are currently at 96 per cent occupancy. HA spokesman for the 5 Boroughs said: “The article refers to significant numbers of mental health beds being closed since April 2011. The 5 Boroughs Partnership NHS Foundation Trust has not closed any beds since that date.

“There are 73 inpatient beds available in Wigan for mental health service users. At present, approximately 96 per cent of these beds are occupied.”

However the 5 Boroughs refused to say what contingency plans are in place if they have too many patients or comment the findings of the Community Care report.

The findings have been met with concern from health ministers and mental health charities.

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.”

Dr Geraldine Strathdee, National Clinical Director for Mental Health from NHS England, said the key was to strike the right balance between providing sufficient hospital beds and helping patients to be treated at home, or in the community. We need to make sure the people who are commissioning services have the information they need about the level of need in their area. We have to get this right for people.”

Marjorie Wallace, chief executive of the charity SANE, said: “It is all too easy to find the cuts demanded by NHS efficiency savings in mental health.

“If a patient has heart failure or is in a coma, a bed has to be found. But for a person in mental distress, this is not seen to be as necessary.

“Being turned away when seeking help only reinforces patients’ feelings of rejection and hopelessness and can in our experience drive them to suicide.”