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HUNDREDS of mental health patients have spent more than 12 hours in A&E for treatment over the last four years- and the numbers are rising.

In 2018, there were 257 breaches of the 12-hour target waiting time for mental health patients at Royal Blackburn Hospital A&E.

That is a huge rise from just 31 patients in 2016 and 61 in 2017, with health campaigners blaming a lack of community beds. The figure for so far this year is 64 already, meaning there have been 413 breaches in four years, according to freedom of information responses from East Lancashire Hospitals Trust (ELHT).

The figures also show that one patient waited more than three days in the Royal Blackburn Hospital’s emergency department for a bed last year, while this year, a patient has waited more than two days, from ‘Decision to Admit’.

That is the time at which a full mental health assessment has been carried out and it has been determined that the patient requires an admission.

Russ McLean, chairman of the Pennine Lancashire Patient Voices Group, said: “This is disgusting.

“A lack of mental health beds in the community is driving more vulnerable people to A&E.

“What’s needed is more money and action rather than warm words from commissioners.”

Burnley’s MP Julie Cooper described the situation as a national scandal.

She said: “We’ve seen a shocking rise in the number of people facing mental health issues which is increasing demand.

“Staff in A&Es are doing the best they can with the resources they have but they simply don’t have enough.

“Care in the community for mental health patients is vital but it’s non-existent.

“The situation is a national scandal.”

Lisa Moorhouse, head of operations for the mental health network, at Lancashire Care Foundation Trust, the county’s main mental health organisation, admitted the situation was unacceptable.

She said reasons for the rise in 12-hour breaches at A&Es included higher numbers of patients attending in crisis.

She said: “It is not acceptable for people to have to attend A&E or to wait for lengthy periods of time should they need a bed and we can assure our service users that we are working hard to improve.

“There are a number of factors contributing to an increase in 12 hour breaches at emergency departments.

“These include higher numbers of our patients attending in crisis, difficulties securing specialist provision for some service users, and inefficiencies in our community services, all of which impact on our ability to support patients in a timely way.”

She added: “However, we have now developed a system wide improvement plan with all partners who contribute to the delivery of mental health care. We have also have secured additional funding to increase support in the community 24 hours a day and we are working with Northumberland Tyne and Wear NHS Trust (NTW) who have a CQC rating of ‘outstanding’ to learn from their approach to managing mental health urgent care pathways.

“We recognise that changes are required to the way our services work as well as investment in additional provision. Lancashire Care and our commissioners have already implemented some actions and discussions are continuing regarding further funding in-line with the national mental health investment standard.”

Sharon Gilligan, director of operations for emergency services at ELHT said: “Our position with regard to mental health patients has not changed.

“The safety of all patients is our first priority and when a patient with mental health needs attends A&E, we have plans in place to care for them until they can be assessed by a specialist mental health professional from Lancashire Care.”

“If a patient requires admission to a mental health bed and no bed is immediately available, a full risk assessment is completed, a care plan developed which may include additional staff to support the patient and regular reviews are undertaken by the mental health liaison team from Lancashire Care.”

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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.”

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https://www.lancashiretelegraph.co.uk/news/17481773.hospital-bosses-dispute-nhs-nurse-and-midwife-vacancy-figures/

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https://www.lancashiretelegraph.co.uk/news/17444056.patient-went-into-royal-blackburn-hospital-ae-with-toothache/

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