Over the last three years I’ve lost count of the number of distressed constituents who have attended my surgeries, emailed or dropped into my constituency office to tell me about their upsetting experiences in trying to access mental health care.
Now shocking data has come to light following a Freedom of Information request by the Labour Party. We asked all NHS Mental Health Trusts in England to tell us how far away they had been forced to send an adult needing inpatient mental health treatment. Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust responded to reveal that some patients have been sent more than 300 miles away – the equivalent of being transferred to either Exeter in the South or the Highlands of Scotland.
In 2015 Lancashire Care NHS Foundation revealed the furthest patient/s were sent was 314 miles, 310 miles in 2016 and 299 miles last year. These were the biggest distances recorded out of the 36 trusts who responded.
It’s appalling that some of the most vulnerable people in the country are being sent such huge distances from their homes and families for want of a mental health bed locally. The overwhelming evidence is that ‘out of area’ placements do serious harm to the recovery of people with mental health conditions, yet the Government is categorically failing to reduce their use. This is exactly the type of ‘burning injustice’ the Prime Minister pledged to end.
I speak to health professionals regularly and I know that mental health specialists will feel as I do, that this situation is completely unacceptable – the last thing a doctor wants to prescribe for a patient in crisis is to send them far away from the familiarity and security of home and loved ones.
I’ve written to the Foundation to ask why they are being forced to make these really difficult decisions – is it a lack of funding, a lack of facilities, a lack of staff, a lack of beds or more likely a combination of all these things? If you or a loved one has experienced being transferred ‘out of area’ for treatment please get in touch. Email me on firstname.lastname@example.org or call my office on 01524 566551.