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How 140 NHS mental health beds have been cut in Norfolk and Suffolk

The Campaign to Save Mental Health Services in Norfolk and Suffolk protesting about cuts in 2016 in Norwich. Photo: Steve Adams

The Campaign to Save Mental Health Services in Norfolk and Suffolk protesting about cuts in 2016 in Norwich. Photo: Steve Adams

Copyright Archant Norfolk 2016

A quarter of mental health beds in Norfolk and Suffolk have been lost in the last four years.

While England has seen the number of mental health beds fall by 3,500 since 2012, a drop of 16pc, the Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust (NSFT), which provides the majority of mental health services in the region, has cut 25pc of beds in the same period - 139.

A spokesman for the NSFT said the majority of its bed closures were within older people’s services and they were replaced by community services.

“Not all people in mental health crisis need to be, or should be, admitted to a bed,” an NSFT spokesman said. “Often the best outcome for a patient is achieved when they can remain within their own home.”

But a lack of beds means the NSFT has to send mental health patients hundred of miles away for treatment, something this newspaper has been highlighting through our Mental Health Watch campaign.

Beds for people in Norfolk and Suffolk with mental health issues have been cut by 25pc in four years. Photo: Dominic Lipinski/PA WireBeds for people in Norfolk and Suffolk with mental health issues have been cut by 25pc in four years. Photo: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

In January 2014, NSFT bosses said they would stop sending patients out of the area for treatment within four months.

Four years on and the numbers have rocketed, reaching 606 bed days in March - up from 26 in April last year. Almost all of those patients are from Norfolk rather than Suffolk.

It aims to get rid of all out of area placements by March 2018.

The NSFT spokesman said: “We fully recognise the distress this can cause some patients and we simply do not want to send them away from our local services.”

A report which goes before the NSFT board of directors today states that the occupancy levels of emergency beds “remains a concern with demand for beds continuing to be high in Central Norfolk and Great Yarmouth and Waveney”.

A spokesman for the Campaign to Save Mental Health Services in Norfolk and Suffolk said: “NSFT’s board promised that beds would not be closed until it was shown they were no longer needed. But it closed beds and made the beds crisis even worse. People have died or suffered life-changing injuries following the unavailability of local NHS beds.”

The NSFT said it now planned to increase the number of beds but could not go into detail yet. At Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Foundation Trust 49 beds have been lost in four years.

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