Norfolk and Suffolk mental health trust’s use of controversial out of area beds rockets by 87%

The NSFT's Hellesdon Hospital.

The NSFT's Hellesdon Hospital. - Credit: Archant © 2012

Mental health patients in Norfolk and Suffolk are increasingly being sent to beds across the country - despite pledges to reduce the practice.

At the end of May, the number of Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust (NSFT) patients in out-of-area beds was 20.

Sending patients out of area has cost the trust £530,000 so far this year.

Out-of-area placements saw an increase in bed days from 381 in April to 713 in May – a rise of 332 or 87%.

This cost the trust £340,000, according to papers presented to the board yesterday.

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During 2013/14, 113 patients were sent to out-of-area beds outside Norfolk and Suffolk at a cost of £1.5m.

And the NSFT is now in a dispute with the area's health commissioners over the cost of sending patients to out-of-area beds.

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Andrew Hopkins, the trust's director of finance, said the cost was a particular issue in central Norfolk.

He described it as the 'most significant element of the dispute with the Central Norfolk CCG'.

Patients can be sent to out- of-area beds if they require specialist services which are not available locally, or if there are no beds free in the area.

A spokesman for the central Norfolk CCG said: 'The funding of out-of-area beds and other core services provided by NSFT – is the subject of ongoing, confidential contract negotiations and therefore it is neither appropriate nor in the interest of any parties for the CCGs to comment further.'

In previous years the trust has had to send patients to places as far away as East Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire.

The NSFT cut its number of beds and staff as part of a 'radical redesign' in 2012.

But that left it short of places and led to £600,000 being spent on out-of-area beds in just one month in 2014.

And patients are constantly sent to other areas because there are not enough beds in East Anglia.

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