Mental health patients in Coventry are still being sent miles away for treatment
People with mental health issues in Coventry are still being sent thousands away from home for treatment, despite the Government’s pledge to end out-of-area placements by 2021. In the year up to January 2022, a total of 135 mental health patients were inappropriately sent out of their area by Coventry and Warwickshire Partnership NHS Trust, with 25 of these placements still active by the end of January.
Inappropriate out-of-area placements happen when there are no local beds available and patients are usually sent to a different city or county. Mental health patients in Coventry spent a combined total of 7,280 days out of their area in the past year.
Almost half (48 per cent) of these patients spent less than a month away for treatment, two in five spent between one and three months, but there were 15 out-of-area placements that lasted more than three months. The distance to the units patients are sent to also varies. Half of the patients were sent to units less than between 50 and 200 kilometers away from their home while one in five had to travel between 200 and 300 kilometers.
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Out-of-area placements are associated with high costs. In the past year, the trust spent more than £2.7million on patients placed out of their area, with each patient costing the NHS £797 a day on average.
Across England, 5,020 patients were sent out of their area in the year up to January 2022 due to a lack of beds locally. A total of 700 of these placements remained active by the end of January.
This is despite the Government’s plan to eliminate inappropriate out-of-area placements by March 2021. NHS trusts sending a high number of patients away for treatment tend to be those caring for a large population, including Lancashire and South Cumbria Trust, Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership Trust and Sussex Partnership Trust.
Those receiving patients are mainly private hospitals. Mundesley Hospital in Norfolk, Priory Hospital Middleton St George in Darlington, and Cygnet Hospital in Stevenage all had more than 40 patients currently with them by the end of January this year. Inappropriate out-of-area placements cost the government almost £120m in the past year.
Mental health charity YoungMinds said it is a “deeply distressing” situation for families involved and called on the Government to end inappropriate out-of-area placements as soon as possible. Olly Parker, the charity’s head of external affairs said: “It’s deeply distressing for parents or carers to have a child who is so unwell that they require inpatient care – and it’s even worse when there are no beds available locally.”
He said the long distance and the expensive travel costs mean those placed away from their home can only see their family as little as once a fortnight or even less, making an already difficult situation even worse. “Despite missing their 2021 target, we call on the Government to uphold their commitment to end inappropriate out-of-area placements as soon as possible. For families currently in crisis, this change cannot come quickly enough,” Mr Parker added. “It is crucial that the Government invests in community support for young people with emerging problems, to help them before their problems escalate and reduce the number of people who need specialist care.”
The Department of Health and Social Care said the failure to eliminate all out-of-area placements by 2021 was due to increasing pressure caused by Covid. The pandemic has led to bed closures due to infection control, Covid-related absences among staff and higher demand for mental health services. A spokesperson for the department said: “Everyone should have access to safe, appropriate mental health care and we recognize the impact that receiving care far away from loved ones can have.
“That’s why we are investing an extra £2.3billion per year to transform NHS mental health services by 2024, meaning more people will be able to receive care as close to home as possible.” The NHS also reiterated its commitment to stop mental health patients having to travel away from home for treatment as soon as possible and noted that out-of-area placements have decreased over the past year.
In January 2022, a total of 315 new patients were placed in mental health units out of their area, down from 585 over the same time period a year ago. A spokesperson said: “Mental health services are committed to ending inappropriate out of area placements as quickly and as safely as possible for patients, recognizing the negative impact on people’s recovery of being sent far from away from home and their loved ones.
“Despite the pandemic and thanks to the efforts of local services, the number of days people spend out of area has not increased over the past year as might have been expected and the number of new patients being sent out of area each month has been decreasing. since late 2020.”