People with mental health issues from Greater Manchester have been put in care up to 180 miles away as pressure on services mounts, the M.E.N. can reveal.
NHS figures show five patients from the region were placed between 125 and 185 miles away as of December by Greater Manchester West NHS Foundation Trust.
Data shows that 10 people were placed between 30 and 60 miles away from the region; 15 between 15 and 30 miles away; and 55 patients less than 15 miles away.
These placements – called ‘Out of Area Placements’ – are still happening across country.
The government is trying to stop the ‘inappropriate’ practice, often caused by a lack of psychiatric beds in acute adult mental health services, by the end of the decade.
Greater Manchester West NHS Foundation Trust merged with Manchester Mental Health and Social Care NHS Trust on January 1.
Gill Green, director of nursing and operations for Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust, said: “The safety of our service users is always our first priority.
“As a trust we always seek to try and ensure people receive the right care, at the right time in the right place. Part of that is a determination to make sure the right treatment is available as close to home for the person as possible.
“Unfortunately, due to pressures, capacity and demand on our services, or if the required level of specialist care is not available locally, service users may be treated outside of their immediate area.
“In this situation, it is a priority for us to ensure the service users are accommodated close to home as soon as we can, to make sure their out of area stay is as short as possible.
“We recognise that this is not ideal, but throughout the process, staff remain fully involved in the care of our service users. Our staff join care meetings via teleconference, are copied into correspondence, and ensure a smooth transition throughout.
“We are constantly assessing the situation with out of area placements and seeking to find solutions that result in service users being treated in the area in which they reside.”
Barbara Keeley, shadow cabinet member for mental health and MP for Worsley and Eccles South, said: “It is very distressing both for patients from Greater Manchester and for their families to have them placed so many miles away, just so they can get an inpatient mental health bed.
A protest against cuts to mental health services in Manchester
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“If Tory ministers are serious about wanting to end this distress for the people involved they must take action to reverse the cuts in the mber of mental health beds that has happened on their watch.
“The government should also be planning to make the changes needed to improve this before 2020, so that people with mental health issues could get inpatient care near their homes and families.”
Paul Reed, chair of the Manchester Users Network which represents people in the city with mental health issues, said he knows of people from Manchester in recent years sent as far away as Portsmouth, Harrogate and Darlington.
“We are very concerned about people being sent of the region because of pressure on services here,” he said.
“Families have to travel long distances, and often, don’t get any expenses.
“For users, it’s not a case of asking their family to pop down, they often have to travel hundreds of miles.
“Those people often lose contact with their families, which isn’t what they need when they’re trying to get better.”
Paul also raised concerns about an increasing number of patients having their care ‘stepped down’, as bosses attempt to free up beds.
“People, some of whom have been in the system for 40 years, are having their care ‘stepped down’, in an attempt to get them into hospital again. It’s essentially a discharge.
“The Department for Work and Pensions then contacts mental health services to see if these people are ready to work, which very often, they’re not, but some lose their benefits.
“It’s backfired, it’s a stupid idea, because people are often stepped down, having a crisis, and coming back into the system.”