Mental health patients taken to private clinics hundreds of miles from Manchester at cost of £7m
By Dean Kirby
Patients have been transferred as far away as London more than 670 times since 2013
Hundreds of mental health patients are being taken to private clinics up to 260 miles from Manchester due to a shortage of NHS beds.
Acutely-ill people have been transferred to clinics as far away as Darlington, Harrogate, London and Bristol for emergency treatment more than 670 times since 2013.
Many have stayed away for weeks while undergoing treatment at a huge cost to the NHS in Greater Manchester.
Bosses at the Manchester Mental Health and Social Care Trust have paid more than £7m for beds at clinics, including the Priory in Altrincham, since 2011.
Senior psychiatrists, health unions and mental health service users have all expressed concerns about the practice.
One patient has told the M.E.N. she was sent back to Manchester in a taxi after spending three weeks being treated in Harrogate, North Yorkshire.
Alan Harman, vice-chairman of the Manchester Users Network, which represents patients in the city, said: “It’s terrible that people are being taken miles away from their families and friends.
“It’s a waste of money as well because these people taken away from home take longer to well again. More beds are needed in Manchester.”
Figures obtained by the M.E.N, using freedom of information laws, show that Manchester Mental Health and Social Care Trust has placed patients in private beds 628 times since 2013.They included patients who were taken to Weston-super-Mare, Chelmsford, Basildon and a hospital just 10 miles north of Brighton.
The Greater Manchester West Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust said patients have been taken to private clinics including Darlington, Harrogate, Bradford and Preston 29 times. Four patients were placed in NHS beds outside the trust.
Pennine Care NHS Foundation Trust, which also provides mental health services in Greater Manchester, said patients had been taken to private clinics including Harrogate and Atherton, near Wigan, 14 times.
One patient was at the Priory in Cheadle Royal for 108 days and another was at the Priory in Altrincham for 114 days.
A patient was at a hospital in West Sussex for 73 days and another was at a hospital in Bradford, Yorks, for 66 days.
The trusts say they are working to ensure no-one in need of an urgent bed is left waiting for treatment.
They say their first priority is to place patients in a local bed and decisions to take patients elsewhere are made in consultation with their family.
Bed occupancy for adult acute patients at the Mancheter Mental Health and Social Care Trust was running at 99.8 per cent last month and the trust has a deficit of more than £1m.
Dr Sridevi Kalidindi, Co-Chair, Joint Commissioning Panel for Mental Health at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: “It’s absolutely unacceptable for people to have to travel great distances when they are acutely unwell.
“This is a national issue and trusts across the country are having to do this. There are complex issues behind this, but it is clear that acute beds nationally have gone, but the whole system needs to work to support people with mental health needs.
“People who are away from their families and community mental health teams can add weeks to their length of stay in hospital. It’s also very expensive.”
James Rupa, from the Unison health service union, said: “People will be shocked by this poor use of public money. There needs to be sufficient capacity within the NHS in Greater Manchester to meet mental health needs.
“Where patients are sent out of Greater Manchester for treatment it can slow their recovery and, where expensive private sector clinics are used, it is a waste of NHS money.
“There needs to be better funding for our local mental health services and money should be spent building up NHS provision in Greater Manchester rather than paying private providers around the country.”