Express and Star: Mental health patient spent 64 HOURS in police custody because there were no NHS beds in the country

The country has run out of mental health beds after the closure of more than two thousand NHS beds. The Express and Star reports:

A mental health patient spent 64 hours in police custody, taking 22 officers off the streets and costing taxpayers’ £20,000 – because there were no available NHS beds in the entire country.

At least four hospitals refused to take the 47-year-old in what has been described as one of the worst examples of the breakdown of mental health services in the UK, the Express & Star has learnt.

The man had absconded from a London hospital and was picked up by Staffordshire Police in the county after reports he was urinating and pulling his trousers down in public places.

After initial resistance by health bosses, the man was taken to Harplands Hospital in Stoke-on-Trent but just seven hours later staff demanded police remove him.

What followed was an extraordinary 64-hour period where NHS officials in the county refused to take the man into their care, according to police sources.

Police officers from Cannock and Stafford were among 22 officers diverted from normal duties to keep watch over the man as he spent three days in custody between 6.27am on Friday March 6 until 10pm on Sunday March 8.

Staffordshire Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Ellis has described the incident as an ‘abandonment’ and ‘failure’ by NHS leaders and has launched an inquiry where health bosses will called to answer questions.

Over the course of the weekend, hospitals in Manchester, Bradford, and London refused to take the patient, leaving police officers in charge of his care.

Mr Ellis said: “The scale and gravity of failings across the mental healthcare system in this specific case is by no means a daily occurrence. But it does, I’m sad to say, again highlight an abandonment by mental health services of a troubled individual, leaving police to be the first, last and only resort available.

“It is clear from the evidence presented to me so far that this was primarily a failure by anyone responsible for mental health services to grip a complex situation involving an individual who needed healthcare, not incarceration in a police cell.

“This wasn’t, on the face of it, even about money. No, this was about a failure of mental health services management to take responsibility and be accountable for their services across Staffordshire, regionally and wider.”

Police sources told the Express & Star senior officers were ‘furious’ by the incident and feared the situation was getting ‘worse rather than better’.

Another source revealed that Staffordshire Police had even considered billing the NHS for the fiasco.

Of course, in Norfolk and Suffolk the police became so frustrated that they drafted a standard letter of complaint to Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) for use by officers.

Two weeks ago, the BBC ran an article about the lack of beds in England for those in crisis. We’ve had confirmation from mental health professionals that they were told there were no beds available, private or NHS, in the entire country for patients in crisis from Norfolk and Suffolk that weekend. It is an alarming development going beyond even the Map of Shame.

The lack of beds made it impossible for AMHPs to do their jobs and put people in crisis and professionals at unacceptable risk. This was by no means the first time that this disgraceful state of affairs has arisen. Yet still NSFT broke its promise and closed Waveney Acute Services before the replacement beds are built.

Mental health trusts are allegedly being put under enormous pressure by NHS England and commissioners to prevent news of this escalation of the national mental health beds crisis spreading to the national press. This is as dangerous for patient safety as covering one’s eyes to cross the road because the traffic is moving too fast. The pressure also pushes the Comms departments of NHS Trusts to become economical with the actualité, which endangers democracy and a free press. The lack of capacity needs to be publicly acknowledged and urgently addressed, not covered-up. We’ve had enough of that.

For AMHPs and psychiatrists trying to help people in crisis, trying to secure theoretical free bed capacity, perhaps just a single bed in the whole of England, is like trying to park in a massive multi-storey car park with one supposedly-free space on the Saturday before Christmas.

Surely, enough is enough. Alistair Burt and Jeremy Hunt need to ensure that there are enough beds available for AMHPs to do their jobs, keeping people safe. This can’t go on.

Here in Norfolk and Suffolk, mental health services, already rated Inadequate by the CQC, face another £36 million of cuts.

Click on the image below to read the full story on the Express and Star website:

Express and Star Mental health patient spent 64 HOURS in police custody because there were no NHS beds in the country

6 thoughts on “Express and Star: Mental health patient spent 64 HOURS in police custody because there were no NHS beds in the country”

  1. I thought Norman, (I’m proud of what I’ve done for mental heath), Lamb had sorted all this out before he left office.????…………..No thought not……..As for Alistair Burt and Jeremy Hunt. I thought there was a’ promise of a bed if someone needed one’.???? Fifth  richest nation in the world and we can’t provide enough beds for patients, because the government has closed them.  Its a national disgrace for the fifth wealthiest country in the world.

  2. Exactly, a disgusting indictment of this failing system, hobbled by cuts, poor management and cynical government policy.

    Of course the private sector has no legal requirement to take anyone and given the pressure on beds at this time, they can afford to cherry pick the ‘easy’ patients and leave people with complex and acute needs in a pool of their own pee in a cell… this is the reality of the situation.

  3. Under the Mental Health Act no hospital is legally obliged to accept a patient. However, the Mental Health Act places a statutory duty on Clinical Commissioning Groups to ensure that beds are available for urgent admissions to psychiatric hospital. In Norfolk and Suffolk the CCGs have been breaching their statutory duty for the last 3 years. NHS England, Monitor ( What a joke! ), the CQC, have stood by and allowed over 2000 beds to close nationally; they have overseen the closure of the specialist assertive outreach teams, and the general run down of community psychiatric care and social care for the most vulnerable in society. How much do we pay the bureaucrats of the CCGs, Monitor and the unaccountable NHS England? Surely this money could be used to pay front line staff and just allow them to get on with the job. We need mental health services to be properly funded, but we also need to do away with unnecessary bureaucrats and top heavy management. We need workers’ power in the NHS.

  4. Yesterday an article by  Matt Chorley, the Daily Mail’s political correspondent,  reported that David Flory, a former aid Jeremy Hunt  at the ‘NHS Trust Development Agency’ finished his contract.  On top of his  £205-£210,000 salary plus pension benefits, he was given a bonus of £410,000 at the end of his FIXED TERM CONTRACT.  An NHS spokesperson said that ‘it reflected his 20 years service at board level, and his  dedication and exceptional service which have been invaluable to the NHS’. ………The rest of us just get £100 in vouchers if you’ve been with the SAME Trust for 25years. Many staff in this Trust have given ‘exceptional dedicated service’ for much longer…and people wonder where the waste is.  I’m guessing Mr Flory won’t be loosing any sleep over the loss of 2000 acute psychiatric beds, or the resultant deaths from cuts to the service.

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