Graphic: Mental health patients sent to Yorkshire, London and North East after trust misses target to end bed placements outside of Norfolk
- Credit: copyright: Archant 2013
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.
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.
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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.
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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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