Dozens of mentally ill people sent away from Doncaster for treatment

Dozens of seriously mentally ill people were sent miles away for treatment because there were no beds available for them around Doncaster, figures show.

Tuesday, 29th June 2021, 8:22 am

Vulnerable people are having their recovery jeopardised by having to travel sometimes hundreds of miles away from their home and loved ones to be treated, according to mental health charity Mind.

In the year to March, acutely ill adults spent a combined 880 days in non-local facilities due to bed pressures, according to statistics showing that the NHS Doncaster CCG arranged as many as 25 inappropriate out of area placements in that time. Some had to travel up to 120 miles for treatment.

Placements are considered inappropriate when they are due to a lack of beds locally rather than a specific need to send a patient elsewhere.

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Vulnerable people are having their recovery jeopardised by having to travel hundreds of miles away from their home
Vulnerable people are having their recovery jeopardised by having to travel hundreds of miles away from their home

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NHS figures suggest that the Government target of eradicating inappropriate out of area placements by the end of March has not been met nationally but at that time, no active placements were recorded at the CCG.

Such placements cost the CCG more than 600,000 over the year, while the average daily cost of an out of area bed was £805.

In England there were 670 people being treated away from their home area at the end of March, with 6,375 inappropriate out of area placements arranged in the year prior to then. The associated cost was over £109m and more than 1,000 patients had to travel over 120 miles for care.

Approximately 250 placements lasted longer than 91 days and more than 1,600 for over a month.

Almost all - 96 per cent - of the out of area placements active nationally in March were inappropriate.

The NHS said the coronavirus pandemic disrupted progress towards meeting the Government target.

Interruptions to health care throughout the pandemic contributed to greater challenges in keeping people well in the community and spotting signs of escalation or relapse.

And demand for mental health services has increased, the NHS said, with more people needing help and a higher proportion becoming acutely ill before being able to access appropriate support.

Mind’s director of external relations, Sophie Corlett, recognised the work done by health service staff putting their lives on the line to work throughout the pandemic.

But she said the impact of the coronavirus on mental health meant it was increasingly important to have “the right beds in the right places”.

She said: “The number of these placements is still far too high.

“The effects of people waiting for treatment or being sent far from their loved ones can be devastating particularly for children and young people.

“We need to see robust planning and greater investment in mental health services, so that people can get the help they need, when they need it, close to their home and existing support networks.

“To do this the UK Government must prioritise urgent investment in community mental health services to stop people going into crisis.”

This year will see the Government invest £1.7 billion in mental health services, along with an additional £500m to tackle covid-related pressures.

The NHS said the funding would allow for improvements to community and crisis care services and would support timely hospital discharges, allowing for a reduction in pressure on inpatient services.

NHS Doncaster CCG was approached for a comment.

In these confusing and worrying times, local journalism is more vital than ever. Thanks to everyone who helps us ask the questions that matter by taking out a subscription or buying a paper. We stand together. Liam Hoden, editor.