Geraldine Scott of the Eastern Daily Press reports:
Scores of mental health patients in “acute distress” were sent out of Norfolk and Suffolk for care – despite five years of promises that the practice would end.
With services bursting at the seams, 82 people from the two counties were shipped away from their homes and loved ones in January – spending a total of 1,359 nights out of the counties.
It is the highest number since October 2016, and has been strongly condemned by campaigners who have been relentlessly warning of the scandal since 2014.
The shocking figures were revealed in board papers released ahead of a meeting on Thursday where bosses at Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust (NSFT) will discuss the data.
The vast majority of out of area patients in January came from Norfolk, with 73 being sent away from the county, and nine from Suffolk.
That is despite repeated promises from NSFT to end the practice.
In January 2014, NSFT bosses said they would stop sending patients out of the area for treatment within four months.
It wasn’t just NSFT bosses who made this commitment: it was Norfolk’s commissioners too.
This was not achieved and more recently the trust set itself the goal of to October 2017, before being adjusted to the “more realistic” date of March 2018. This was again missed but now national targets have demanded all mental health services stop sending patients out of the area by 2021.
The ‘new’ Chief Operating Officer at NSFT, Stuart Richardson, claims that he is confident the use of out of area beds will be eliminated by 2021. But how? That’s less than two years away?
Terry Skyrme, from the Campaign to Save Mental Health Services in Norfolk and Suffolk, said he had been trying to stop it for five years, back to when he worked in the trust’s crisis team.
He said: “I was raising concerns about this back then, the whole team was absolutely fed up. As an AMHP [approved mental health professional] I had to take people across the country.
“A lot of people would say ‘I’m not going to hospital if it’s 100 miles away from home’ but if there was a bed locally and they knew their family could visit they would.
A spokesman for the Campaign to Save Mental Health Services in Norfolk and Suffolk said: “Inflicting acute distress on people in crisis and wasting three quarters of a million pounds on transporting people out of Norfolk and Suffolk in January alone is disgraceful. The money could be invested in improving community mental health services and reopening some of the 140 mental health beds that have been closed by NSFT. Instead, the money is wasted on private hospital beds nationwide.”
North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb, who has long campaigned on mental health, said the situation was “wholly unacceptable”.
He said: “We know that putting patients out of area is associated with a higher risk of suicide, there’s clear evidence of that.”
Click on the image below to read the story in full on the EDP website: