Despite NHS pledges to end out-of-area placements, a lack of in-patient beds saw 587 youngsters admitted to mental health inpatient units away from home in the first six months of 2018/19 The youngster had to travel the length of the country for NHS treatment. A mentally-ill child was forced to travel almost the length of the country for NHS care. The child was sent 339 miles from their home, the equivalent of driving from Brighton to near Newcastle.
Data for England, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, shows that a lack of in-patient beds near youngsters’ homes means they must be treated in units away from the support of family and friends in other parts of the country. Experts say moving vulnerable, often suicidal, children puts them at risk. NHS England pledged to end out-of-area placements in 2017.
The data shows that 587 youngsters were admitted to mental health inpatient units away from home in the first six months of 2018/19, similar to the rate of 1,249 for the whole of 2017/18. Dr Jon Goldin, of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: “Loneliness and social isolation are also likely to hinder their chances of recovery.” Experts say moving vulnerable, often suicidal, children puts them at risk Barbara Keeley, Shadow Minister for Mental Health, said children being sent 300 miles was “appalling”.
The Department of Health said: “We are committed to ending inappropriate out of area placements for mental health care by 2020/21.”
Geoff Heyes, policy head at mental health charity Mind, said: “Too many young people with mental health problems are being forced to travel hundreds of miles from their family and friends, who form an important support network, to receive the treatment they need.
“The NHS has made ambitious commitments for improving mental health care which are welcome. But while we are waiting for these to be delivered, hundreds of young people continue to face being sent away from home.” A spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Social Care said: “It is completely unacceptable for patients to be sent away from their family and friends for treatment and we are committed to ending inappropriate out of area placements for mental health care by 2020/21.
“We are transforming mental health services with a planned record spend of £12.1 billion this year and as part of our Long Term Plan for the NHS, announced a further expansion of mental health services, with an additional £2.3 billion every year in real terms by 2023/24.”