Mental health patients in Blackburn with Darwen 'travelling thousands of miles for care'
PATIENTS with a mental illness are being sent thousands of miles away from home to get a bed for treatment, new research shows.
From August 2018 to July 2019, 70 mental health patients in Blackburn with Darwen were sent 3,689 miles away for treatment.
During the same time period, 95 patients across the rest of East Lancashire travelled a total of 4,815 miles to get the help the need.
The practice, known as out-of-area placements (OAPs), happens when there is no local hospital bed for the patient to be admitted to.
The government has pledged to end all inappropriate adult OAPs for acutely ill patients by 2021.
Professor Wendy Burn, Royal College of Psychiatrists president, blamed cuts in the number of mental health beds which she said had ‘gone too far’.
She said: “Patients and their families are suffering as a result.
“It’s clear that some parts of England urgently need more properly funded and staffed beds. Hundreds more are needed.
“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.”
East Lancashire health campaigner Russ McLean described the figures as ‘disgusting’ and said that patients were having their mental illness ‘worsened’ by the long trips.
Mr McLean, chairman of the Pennine Lancashire Patient Voices Group, said: “This is down to shortages of staff and there is a need for more funding and beds in the community.
“Beds are being taken out of the system and not getting replaced.
“So you have patients travelling out of the area, who are feeling more isolated which is worsening their mental health, and leaving families not able to see their loved ones regularly.
The figures from the RCPsych come after it emerged earlier this year that two men from Blackburn had to go as as Plymouth and Southampton, hundreds of miles away, for treatment because there were no mental health beds locally.
Tanya Hibbert, head of operations for the mental health network at Lancashire & South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust, the county’s main mental health organisation, said: “We are delivering a system-wide improvement plan with all partners who contribute to the delivery of mental health care.