Vulnerable Wigan patients treated miles away due to beds shortage

Dozens of seriously mentally ill people were sent miles away for treatment because there were no beds available for them around Wigan borough, figures show.

Tuesday, 6th July 2021, 10:58 am
The effects of being sent far from their loved ones can be devastating particularly for young people

Vulnerable people in England are having their recovery jeopardised by having to travel sometimes hundreds of miles away from their home and loved ones to be treated, according to mental health charity Mind.

In the year to March, acutely ill adults spent a combined 2,705 days in non-local facilities due to bed pressures, according to statistics showing that the NHS Wigan Borough CCG arranged as many as 85 inappropriate out of area placements in that time

Placements are considered inappropriate when they are due to a lack of beds locally rather than a specific need to send a patient elsewhere.

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NHS figures suggest that the Government target of eradicating inappropriate out of area placements by the end of March has not been met nationally but at that time, no active placements were recorded at the CCG.

Such placements cost the CCG more than £1.6m over the year, while the average daily cost of an out of area bed was £600.

Dr Tim Dalton, Local GP and Chair of NHS Wigan Borough CCG, said, “Lots of patients needed help from mental health services during 2020-21.

“We commissioned extra inpatient mental health beds during the year as close as possible, but unfortunately some patients needed to go outside of the borough for their care. All patients, regardless of where they are, should get the same level of support.

“Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS FT – our new mental health service providers – are leading a piece of work both in the borough and across Greater Manchester to reduce the number of out of area placements and keep patients as local as possible.”

In England there were 670 people being treated away from their home area at the end of March, with 6,375 inappropriate out of area placements arranged in the year prior to then. The associated cost was over £109m and more than 1,000 patients had to travel over 120 miles for care.

Approximately 250 placements lasted longer than 91 days and more than 1,600 for over a month, according to figures rounded to the nearest five.

Almost all - 96 per cent - of the out of area placements active nationally in March were inappropriate. The NHS said the coronavirus pandemic disrupted progress towards meeting the Government target

Interruptions to health care throughout the pandemic contributed to greater challenges in keeping people well in the community and spotting signs of escalation or relapse

And demand for mental health services has increased, the NHS said, with more people needing help and a higher proportion becoming acutely ill before being able to access appropriate support.

Pressure on inpatient care across the country also worsened as staff absence rates rose and infection control measures led to beds being temporarily closed.

Mind’s director of external relations, Sophie Corlett, said: “The number of these placements is still far too high. The effects of people waiting for treatment or being sent far from their loved ones can be devastating particularly for children and young people.

“We need to see robust planning and greater investment in mental health services, so that people can get the help they need, when they need it, close to their home and existing support networks.

“To do this the UK Government must prioritise urgent investment in community mental health services to stop people going into crisis.”

Mark Winstanley, chief executive of charity Rethink Mental Illness said: “Being sent miles from home for life-saving treatment comes at huge financial cost to the NHS and personal cost to individuals, whose recovery is often delayed as a result of being sent away from their families, friends and carers and cut off from support in their local community.”

This year will see the Government invest £1.7bn in mental health services, along with an additional £500m to tackle covid-related pressures. The NHS said the funding would allow for improvements to community and crisis care services and would support timely hospital discharges, allowing for a reduction in pressure on inpatient service.

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