EDP: Bed shortage means dozens of mental health patients are still being sent miles from Norfolk and Suffolk for treatment – three years after pledge

Nicholas Carding of the Eastern Daily Press reports:

The region’s mental health trust is set to spend nearly £3m more than budgeted on treating patients at other facilities this year, this newspaper can reveal.

In April just 26 days were spent by NSFT patients at hospitals outside Norfolk and Suffolk, but by the end of December the number rose to 398.

That has cost the trust an extra £1.9m so far this year.

In January 2014, the NSFT and health commissioners set themselves a four month deadline to stop sending mental health patients out of the area for treatment. In some cases patients are sent hundreds of miles from friends and family because there are not enough beds in East Anglia.

But three years later, the problem remains.

Currently there are 14 NSFT patients receiving medical care outside Norfolk and Suffolk, while 19 are being treated at private providers across the two counties.

Some of those 19 are at Mundesley Hospital – despite the hospital being placed in special measures and rated ‘inadequate’ for safety.

Meanwhile last month a mental health patient was sent 220 miles away for treatment.

This time it was the turn of Debbie White, Director of Operations at Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) to attempt to defend the indefensible in the EDP. NSFT has been trotting out the bed-blocking line for years. Beds do get blocked: the number of beds blocked at NSFT is less than the national average. NSFT closed its hostels which provided for a transition from hospital to the community. NSFT cuts its community teams which kept people well. NSFT allowed the Section 75 agreement for joint working with Norfolk County Council to collapse. While the bed crisis has deepened NSFT has closed beds in King’s Lynn, Norwich and Lowestoft.

These scandalous numbers exclude the children and young people sent out of area while brand new NHS beds lie empty.

There is an “obvious” need for more beds locally, according to the Save Mental Health Services in Norfolk and Suffolk campaign group.

Referring to the NSFT’s ongoing bed review, a spokesman for the group said: “We remain deeply concerned about the expensive and late bed review.

“It is obvious to professionals, service users, and carers that NSFT needs more beds and greater investment in community teams – but both commissioners and the NSFT board are unwilling to accept the reality of the crisis in mental health services.”

This financial year the NSFT budgeted to spend £1m on out-of-trust treatment, yet forecasts from its January board papers now predict spending £3.9m by March.

“Every year for the last four years NSFT has ignored the demand for beds, set an unrealistic budget and blown it,” the spokesman added.

“The money could have been spent on building the NHS’s capacity rather than sending people away from their families.”

The EDP article also contains a timeline of the crisis at NSFT with links to previous EDP investigations.

Read the EDP’s report by clicking on the image below. Even better, support expensive investigative journalism, which is so crucial to our campaign, by buying a copy of the newspaper.

14 thoughts on “EDP: Bed shortage means dozens of mental health patients are still being sent miles from Norfolk and Suffolk for treatment – three years after pledge”

  1. …and it doesn’t seem to matter if you’re 18 or 82yrs.  Being sent hundreds of miles to get a bed.  Some of these poor people never see their relatives again, dying alone away from their loved ones.  Utter disgrace….and all the architects of this misery move on to other jobs, or are promoted.

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