NHS let down mental health patients


Almost 500 mentally ill adults travel more than 3o miles to access care each month, as acute inpatient beds or services are unavailable in their areas…writes Rajitha Saleem

nhsMentally ill adults should not travel long distance for care, emphasised a report by an independent commission. Almost 500 patients are believed to travel more than 50km (31 miles) to access care each month, as acute inpatient beds or services are unavailable in their areas, the report said.

The Independent Commission, chaired by ex-NHS chief executive Lord Crisp, said that some of these cases could be potentially dangerous. The report, which is backed by the Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCP), also recommended changes to how services were commissioned.

The report said that, from October 2017, no acutely ill patient should have to travel long distances to receive care. At the same time, a maximum four-hour wait for acute psychiatric care should be introduced, it said. The aim was to guarantee that patients with mental health problems are treated equally to those with physical problems.

The commission added that crisis bed management was a daily occurrence in some trusts, with staff trying to free up beds by moving patients from ward to ward, sending them home on leave, or discharging them earlier than planned. Other patients were asked to travel `unacceptably long distances’ to find a bed, it said.

Minister for Mental Health, Alistair Burt, told BBC that the report would help to shape planned changes to build a better mental health service. He also informed that the NHS England would soon be publishing its independent Mental Health Taskforce report, backed by the £1bn investment announced by the prime minister earlier this year.

Mental health charities believe the continuous government cuts to mental health care funding has not helped the services. In the year 2013/14, 1.7 million people in England used mental health services, with 105,270 admitted to hospital.