July 25 2014 Latest news:
Adam Gretton, Health correspondent
Friday, June 6, 2014
Mental health bosses insisted that they are making progress to ease pressure on beds, despite missing a target to stop some Norfolk patients being sent to hospitals across the country.
Some mental health patients were sent more than 200 miles away because no bed was available in Norfolk or Suffolk.
Patients and their families were forced to travel to private hospitals in County Durham, Surrey, Kent, Yorkshire, Somerset, and Staffordshire in the space of a year, figures from a Freedom of Information request has revealed.
Patients who needed an inpatient bed in Norfolk and Suffolk were also sent to NHS hospitals in London, Cambridgeshire, Essex, and Hertfordshire.
New figures that the number of out of area placements in 2013/14 was 113, 80 of which were placed in adult acute beds, 29 on Psychiatric Intensive Care Units (PICU) and four on specialist placements.
In 2012/13, 117 patients from Norfolk and Suffolk were sent outside of the two counties and there were 77 out of area placements in 2011/12.
The NHS trust used ten sites owned and operated by The Priory Group in 2013/14 and seven from The Cygnet Group.
Patients were also placed with South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, Cambridge and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust, North Essex Partnerships NHS Foundation Trust, Huntercombe Hospital, Roehampton, and Partnerships in Care at Kneesworth Hospital, Royston.
The number of out of area mental health placements has increased across the country from 1,301 in 2011/12 to 3,024 in 2013/14 as a result of increased demand and NHS trusts reducing bed numbers.
More than 1,700 mental health beds have been closed across the country since April 2011.
Officials from Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) and the Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG) for central Norfolk made a pledge in January to put an end to out of area inpatient placements by the end of April.
However, campaigners said the pressure on beds had got worse over the last four months and have called on the mental health trust to reverse a decision to close wards.
New figures from a Freedom of Information (FoI) request have revealed that on April 30, 18 patients from Norfolk and Suffolk were placed out of the two counties, four of which were specialist placements. Patients are being sent as far afield to private institutions in Darlington, Bristol, Brighton and Harrogate when no local beds are available.
NSFT has reduced bed numbers by 20pc as part of its radical redesign of services to save £40m by 2016 to balance its books.
But Terry Skyrme, who works as a social worker for the NHS trust and member of the Campaign to Save Mental Health Services in Norfolk and Suffolk, said that when he left work last Wednesday there were 21 patients in out of area beds, with the vast majority in private hospitals across the country.
He added that there were seven patients from Norfolk in Suffolk beds.
In a letter to North Norfolk CCG, the lead commissioner for mental health services in Norfolk, he said: “The demand for beds, both for voluntary and detained patients, is unrelenting. This is a real crisis. Not only is there a shortage of acute psychiatric beds, but the demand for beds is increasing because of the lack of community care.”
Campaigners have called on NSFT to reopen two mothballed wards at Carlton Court, near Lowestoft, a ward at Hellesdon Hospital and older people’s beds in west Norfolk as well as restoring a link worker service at GP surgeries and reestablish a specialist outreach team.
During 2013/14, 113 patients were sent to out of area inpatient beds outside of Norfolk and Suffolk at a cost of £1.5m.
Hadrian Ball, medical director at NSFT, said: “We are working closely with the commissioners to ensure the services that we provide remain safe. Welcome additional investments have been made and, while there are still pressures in one geographical area of the trust, we are making progress.”
A spokesman from North Norfolk CCG said commissioners held weekly meetings to monitor mental health bed usage and had invested an additional £500,000 in NSFT.
“We are also developing a number of flats which will become available in the summer and investing £300,000 in the psychiatric liaison service at Queen Elizabeth Hospital. We are investing in these services because we recognise, unless there is a clinical need, people should receive care as close to their home as possible.
“The CCG is fulfilling its statutory duties and, whilst recognising that there are pressures in the system, is working hard with all partners to make improvements to the service,” the spokesman said.
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