Kent & Medway NHS and Social Care Partnership (KMPT) and the Kent & Medway CCG are still sending people more than 180 miles from their home for Mental Health treatment, meaning they are both consistently failing short of their targets of ending ‘Out of Area Placements’ (OAPs) caused by local bed shortages.
An ‘out of area placement’ (OAP) occurs when a person with acute mental health needs who requires inpatient care is admitted to a unit that does not form part of the usual local network of services. This means that the person cannot be visited regularly by family and friends or their care co-ordinator to ensure continuity of care and effective discharge planning. Patients should be treated in a location that helps them to maintain contact with family, carers and friends, and to feel as familiar as possible with their local surroundings.
The government set a national ambition to eliminate inappropriate OAPs in mental health services for adults in acute inpatient care by 2020-21. Inappropriate OAPs are where patients are sent out of area because no bed is available for them locally, which can delay their recovery.
Latest NHS data shows KMPT made 50 OAPs and the clients spent 1,875 days Out of Area between them. The OAPs cost KMPT, £1,873,675 in 2020/21, at an average daily cost of £1,007 a day. This is a reduction in cost to KMPT of just over half a million pounds when compared to the costs of 2019/20 which reached nearly £2.4 million.
Community-based mental health services for adults of working age
Acute wards for adults of working age and psychiatric intensive care units
K&M CCG commissioned 45 OAP referrals outside of Kent. These referrals spent 1,705 days outside of Kent. In 2020/21 this cost the CCG £1,647,599 at an average daily cost per day of £1,007. This is a reduction in cost to the CCG of nearly two hundred thousand pounds when compared to the costs of 2019/20 which reached £1.85 million.
The finances aside KMPT missed the key national deadline of eliminating inappropriate OAPs by the end of March 2021. Nationally, only 15 out of 55 NHS Trusts managed to meet the target.
“It can have a devastating impact on patients and their loved ones. Treating patients close to home speeds up recovery, reduces the risk of suicide and shortens hospital stays”
All the figures above are for adults only, as OAP data for children is not publicly available.
Meanwhile, patients continue to be sent far away from home to often private hospitals, run predominantly by The Priory Group and Cygnet Health Care, who are paid millions annually to deliver NHS mental health services.
The private sector is playing a growing role in mental health services in the UK. Estimated at £1.8 billion in 2018 and predicted to grow to £2.3 billion by 2023, the market is dominated by large providers such as Cygnet Health Care and the Priory Group, who deliver services paid for by the NHS worth hundreds of millions of pounds.
Both of these firms, which are owned by US healthcare giants, provide thousands of mental health beds for people who are ill enough to need treatment in hospital. These are mostly paid for by the NHS, and in recent years, some of these hospitals have come under fire after cases of neglect of a Kent Mental Health paitent at a Priory Hospital in East Sussex, poor care and abuse were uncovered.
Nationally, the number of NHS beds has fallen in the last ten years, in part in an attempt to treat more people in the community. But with supply and demand unpredictable, private hospitals provide a short term solution to spikes in demand which the CCG and KMPT are unable to immediately respond to.
“It is extremely disappointing that progress towards eliminating inappropriate out of area placements has stalled,” said Dr Adrian James, the President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, in response to the latest figures.
He called for “urgent action to ensure that local mental health beds are readily available for all patients that need them”, describing the practice as “unacceptable”.
“It can have a devastating impact on patients and their loved ones,” he said. “Treating patients close to home speeds up recovery, reduces the risk of suicide and shortens hospital stays.”
It is clear to the Shepway Vox Team, and perhaps you too, we must break the ongoing cycle of treating crises rather than preventing them. This can only be achieved by investing sustainably in mental health social care. Until this is done, those who suffer from acute mental health issues in Kent will continue to be sent miles away from their homes and support networks.
Mental health problems are widespread, at times disabling, yet often hidden. Nationally one in four adults experiences at least one diagnosable mental health problem in a given year.
Many without previous experience of mental health problems have experienced poor mental health during lockdown and have seen their mental health and wellbeing decline.
If you need to seek help there are organisations out there who can help. Please if you need it, use it
Live It Well Kent
If you need support or would like to refer someone, please contact Live Well Kent 0800 567 7699 email@example.com
They are available from 6pm-11pm weekdays and 12pm-11pm at weekends
116 123 – free from any phone
0330 094 5717 local call charges apply
For residents of Kent and Medway who are not currently a patient with KMPT (sometimes referred to as Kent and Medway secondary care mental health services), call the free 24 hour helpline on 0800 783 9111 if you need urgent mental health support, advice and guidance.
Under 18s (children and young people services or children and adolescent mental health services) For residents of Kent and Medway, you can call the 24 hour Single Point of Access (provided by North East London Foundation Trust) on 0800 011 3474 (select option one, then option three).
Mental Health Matters
Call 0800 107 0160 for 24 hour phone support from compassionate helpline staff, trained in counselling skills.
This service is provided by Mental Health Matters and you can visit their website for more information.
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