Mental health service ‘in crisis’
Wednesday 16th October 2013, 3:10AM BST.
The mental health service in England is in “crisis” according to a leading psychiatrist as new figures show many trusts are running at full capacity, the BBC has reported.
More than 1,500 mental health beds have been closed since April 2011, representing a reduction of 9%, an investigation found.
Care Minister Norman Lamb told the broadcaster the current situation was “unacceptable” and provision must improve.
Freedom of Information requests were sent to 53 of England’s 58 mental health trusts by BBC News and Community Care magazine, and 46 trusts replied.
Three-quarters of the 1,711 bed closures were in acute adult wards, older people’s wards and psychiatric intensive care units.
Average occupancy levels in acute adult and psychiatric beds are running at 100%, while half are over that and all are above the 85% limit recommended by the Royal College of Psychiatrists.
Psychiatrist Dr Martin Baggaley, medical director of the South London and Maudsley NHS Trust, told the BBC: “We are in a real crisis at the moment. I think currently the system is inefficient, unsafe.
“We’re certainly feeling it on the front line, it’s very pressured, and we spend a lot of our time struggling to find beds, sending people across the country which is really not what I want to do.”
At the time of speaking he said he had 50 patients in beds outside his trust, including some in Somerset, and that no beds were available in London.
Mr Lamb said: “Current levels of access to mental health treatment are unacceptable. There is an institutional bias in the NHS against mental health and I am determined to end this.
“More people are being treated in the right settings for them, including fewer people needing to go into hospitals. It is essential that people get the treatment they need early and in the community but beds must be available if patients need them.”
Labour public health spokeswoman Luciana Berger said: “This out-of-touch Tory-led Government has repeatedly cut the spending on mental health services in the NHS. Ministers cannot act surprised today.
“You can’t trust David Cameron with the NHS. In a little over two years, he’s axed 1,700 mental beds alone. Hospital wards are now running beyond safe occupancy levels and others are forced to turn patients away.
“When they most need support, people are being forced to travel unacceptable distances for hospital care.”