Blackburn mental health patient travelled to Southampton for treatment
MENTAL health patients are being sent hundreds of miles from home for treatment with some away for months, it has emerged.
The worst cases saw two men from Blackburn have to go as far as Plymouth and Southampton for treatment because there were no mental health beds locally.
Plymouth is 300 miles from Blackburn and a five-and-a-half hour drive while Southampton is more than 250 miles away and a five-hour drive.
East Lancashire’s patients’ champion Russ McLean, who contacted the Lancashire Telegraph about the ordeal of the two men, said mental health patients were being dumped and abandoned.
County mental health organisation Lancashire Care Foundation Trust confirmed it sent one patient 253 miles away to the Priory in Southampton last year, although they weren't aware of a case in Plymouth.
Mr McLean, chairman of the Pennine Lancashire Patient Voices Group, said: “The mother of one of these young men, from Blackburn, who was 24, called Lancashire Care Foundation Trust’s crisis team.
“They agreed he needed to be sectioned, so he was, but because there were no beds in Blackburn and Lancashire, the nearest bed to him was Plymouth so he ended up travelling there.
“Another man from Blackburn was also sectioned and ended up having to travel to Southampton.”
“Mental health patients are being dumped and abandoned hundreds of miles away, leaving them isolated and damaging their mental health.
“It’s appalling and mental health services are failing and in crisis.”
The cases of these two young men are among several in the county, with new NHS Digital figures showing Lancashire Care was the joint worst in the country for so-called inappropriate out of area placements (OAP).
This is when a person with mental health problems is admitted to a unit which does not form part of the usual local network of services.
Data for March 2019, published last week, shows there were 2,430 inappropriate OAP days in the period at Lancashire Care, up from 630 last year.
Five patients were placed over 300km (186 miles) from home for treatment because of a lack of mental health beds.
While ten patients in March had been away from home for treatment for as long as 31 to 90 nights.
Ribble Valley’s MP Nigel Evans described the situation as absolutely disgraceful.
He said: “The Prime Minister made it clear that mental health is an issue to be treated as seriously as any other health issues, which is why extra money is being provided.
“It’s absolutely disgraceful that anybody is being told they can’t get the care they need in their community.
“There is an urgency for extra provision in the community so people are not sent packing hundreds of miles away from home and their families.”
Joanne Moore, executive director of partnerships and strategy at Lancashire Care, admitted the OAP number was unacceptable.
She said: “This is acknowledged by everyone involved in the Lancashire and South Cumbria health care system.
“We are all committed to working together to address this and other issues around mental health provision. Action has already been taken.”
She said action included a commitment to increase investment in mental health in line with the national mental health investment standard.
While she said, the trust has strengthened its crisis response in the community, and invested in increased staffing, while it is in discussions with commissioners to secure short-term rehabilitation beds and learning disability beds within Lancashire.
She added: “Finally we would point out that some of our patients classed as being out of area are actually in private sector provision within our locality.”