Children and young people made to travel for mental health treatment

Some cases have involved a journey of up to 285 miles, according to the latest figures obtained by the shadow minister for mental health

Some cases have involved a journey of up to 285 miles, according to the latest figures obtained by the shadow minister for mental health

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Children and young people with mental health problems are having to travel up to 285 miles for treatment, although the number of such cases has fallen by nearly a quarter in the last year.

Some 1,039 children and adolescents in England were admitted to an 'out-of-area' bed in 2017-18, with dozens of cases seeing young people having to travel more than 100 miles from home, figures show.

Campaigners say patients are having to go out-of-area due to bed shortages, but the government has said it can also be down to patient choice or particular needs.

Long distances

The latest figures, obtained from NHS England by Labour MP Barbara Keeley, showed a 24% fall in the number of children having to travel out-of-area in 2017-18, down from 1,365 in 2016-17.

However, there were still cases of children and young people having to travel long distances to get the help they needed, potentially harming their recovery.

The government has pledged to end inappropriate placements by 2020 and is funding 150-180 more specialist beds for under-served parts of the country.

Forced to travel

Ms Keeley, shadow minister for mental health, said children were being 'forced to travel hundreds of miles for mental health treatment, despite evidence which shows that out-of-area placements jeopardise their recovery'.

The figures, obtained under freedom of information laws, gave the maximum distance a Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) patient had to travel from their home in 2017-18.

They include:

  • A patient from the Canterbury and Coastal Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) area in Kent who travelled 285 miles.

  • Another from Kernow in Cornwall, who had a 258-mile journey.

  • A CAHMS patient from the West Country had to travel 243 miles.

Some 13 CCGs had young patients who had to travel more than 200 miles from their homes for treatment.

The CCGs were among nearly 70 that had patients who had to travel more than 100 miles for treatment.

Completely unacceptable

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said the government was making record investment in mental health services and was planning to announce more improvements late this year.

'It is completely unacceptable for patients to be sent away from their family and friends for treatment,' the spokesperson said.

'That's why the NHS is opening more specialist beds to tackle this and we have committed to ending inappropriate placements altogether by 2020.'

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