Beds, Herts & Bucks

Mental health patients in Hertfordshire sent 180 miles for beds

A man sits on a bed in a psychiatric ward Image copyright Science Photo Library
Image caption Patients have been sent to units as far afield as Manchester, Leeds and Harrogate

Mental health patients in Hertfordshire had to travel up to 180 miles (290 km) for a bed because of a shortage of local accommodation, new figures show.

They reveal a 230% increase in patients from the county sent to out-of-area beds between 2013-14 and 2014-15.

A carers group has expressed concern a local shortage of resources means some patients are being sent as far away as Yorkshire and Manchester.

The local mental health trust said it was improving its management of beds.

Following a Freedom of Information request, Hertfordshire Partnership Foundation Trust revealed the number of patients sent out-of-area increased from 29 in 2013-14 to 98 in 2014-15, with 83 of these placements due to "bed pressures locally".

The cost of out-of-area placements has risen over the same period from £601,000 to £2m.

Patients have been sent to units as far afield as Manchester, Leeds and Harrogate.

Roma Mills, involvement manager for Carers in Hertfordshire, said the shortage of beds was partly due to the national underfunding of mental health.

She said when patients are sent miles away from their homes and friends and families "it is not a good experience for vulnerable and ill people".

A spokeswoman for the trust said it was trying to "minimise the out of area bed spend" through "strengthening clinical leadership" and having more consultants in evening and weekend shifts to minimise delays in discharging patients.

She added that the trust may also "buy specialist beds where it is not economic to provide ourselves" such as female-only psychiatric intensive care beds, which are not provided by the trust.

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