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Call to ‘get a handle’ on reducing travel distance for mental health patients

Patients are being asked to travel as far as 500 miles from home in order to access mental health services.
Out-of-area care

Patients are travelling as far as 500 miles from home in order to access mental health services.

The figures were released today (28 June) by the British Medical Association after obtaining them under freedom of information law from 54 trusts and all clinical commissioning groups.

In England in 2016/17 a total of 5,876 adults were sent out of area for mental health treatment, a rise of almost 40% on the 4,213 from 2014/15.

587-mile trip

The furthest journey recorded concerned a patient from Somerset being sent to a facility in the Highlands, 587 miles away.

The findings also revealed the amount spent on placing patients in out-of-area beds rose by 47% from 108 million in 2014/15 to 159m in 2016/17.

Head of policy and campaigns at the charity Mind Louise Rubin said hospitalising people away from their homes

Patients are travelling as far as 500 miles from home in order to access mental health services.


Picture: iStock

The figures were released today (28 June) by the British Medical Association after obtaining them under freedom of information law from 54 trusts and all clinical commissioning groups.

In England in 2016/17 a total of 5,876 adults were sent out of area for mental health treatment, a rise of almost 40% on the 4,213 from 2014/15.

587-mile trip

The furthest journey recorded concerned a patient from Somerset being sent to a facility in the Highlands, 587 miles away.

The findings also revealed the amount spent on placing patients in out-of-area beds rose by 47% from £108 million in 2014/15 to £159m in 2016/17.

Head of policy and campaigns at the charity Mind Louise Rubin said hospitalising people away from their homes comes at a great cost –  both financial and human.

Vulnerable

‘When you’re experiencing a mental health crisis, you’re likely to feel scared, vulnerable and alone, so your support network of family and friends are instrumental to recovery,’ she said.

‘The impact of being far away from home can’t be overstated – it can have a negatively effect on an individual’s mental health and can even increase the risk of someone taking their own lives.’

Reducing out-of-area placements

NHS England recently announced 11 new sites will trial a new method of delivering mental health services to reduce the distance patients have to travel.

Ms Rubin revealed authorities in Sheffield and east London had already reduced out-of-area placements to zero.

Patients sent away from home for treatment could expect an average round-trip drive of up to seven and a half hours to see friends and family. If relying on public transport, the average travel time to an ‘out of area’ placement could be as great as 13 hours.

Routine failure

NHS consultant psychiatrist and mental health policy lead of the BMA’s consultants committee Andrew Molodynski called the problem ‘endemic’ in the NHS and 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.’

The findings echo those of the BMA’s research last month which showed how children and young people were experiencing similar problems accessing services locally.


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