Psychiatrists call for more mental health beds to end 'shameful' out of area care

Hundreds more mental health beds are urgently needed across the region to end the 'shameful' practice of sending patients miles away from home for treatment.

That's according to the Royal College of Psychiatrists, which highlights Norfolk and Waveney as having a "persistent challenge" over the so-called out of area placements.

"Steps taken so far to tackle this shameful practice have not worked and that’s why we’re calling for more beds – although of course we recognise this is only part of the solution."

Royal College of Psychiatrists

The College estimates that 1,060 more mental health beds are needed to reduce bed-occupancy rates to acceptable levels and has identified thirteen areas that are particularly struggling with high levels of demand - including Norfolk and Waveney.

Former Health Minister and North Norfolk MP Sir Norman Lamb said the situation was a "moral scandal".

"I think it breaches people's human rights," he said. "We would never do it to a heart or a stroke patient and yet we're putting people into vehicles, sometimes in the middle of the night, sometimes hundreds of miles from home. It's really outrageous in this day and age."

“Trusts struggling with dangerously high levels of bed occupancy are being forced to send seriously ill people hundreds of miles away from their homes for care. That must stop."

Royal College of Psychiatrists

The crisis follows years of bed cuts as part of a drive to treat more people with mental illness in the community, close to their family and friends.

The College says that beds have been closed to move resources into local communities so that people can be treated closer to home, but in reality these beds get lost due to lack of investment into community services.

“As a result, precisely the opposite effect has been achieved with some severely ill patients sent hundreds of miles for care. We calculate that in total patients in England have been forced to travel 550,000 miles in the past year – or 22 times around the world"

Royal College of Psychiatrists

The Government has pledged to end all inappropriate adult OAPs for acutely ill patients by 2021. Despite efforts, progress on reducing that number has stalled, according to the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

Norfolk and Suffolk's troubled mental health trust has repeatedly promised to stop sending patients away from home.

Bosses at the trust insist the situation is improving, with nineteen patients currently being treated out of area - down from 76 in the spring.

The College is calling for several changes to be made Credit: ITV News Anglia

The College is calling for mental health trusts struggling with high bed-occupancy to be given more properly-staffed beds. This is just a small part of a package of measures that the College is calling for.

They also want to see all mental health trusts undertaking local assessments of the demand for services in their area, and for high investment in high-quality community health services to continue.