Mental health trust's out-of-area placements hit record levels

Hellesdon Hospital
Image caption The Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust is based at Hellesdon Hospital, near Norwich

A troubled mental health trust is sending record numbers of people far from home for treatment, figures show.

Some Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust patients are being cared for hundreds of miles away because local beds are unavailable.

The number of bed days for out-of-area placements in April 2019 was 1,911, three times the April 2018 total.

The trust has apologised to patients and families, but said it was adding 16 new beds to increase capacity.

Department of Health guidance says patients should be treated where they can maintain contact with family and to be familiar with their surroundings.

NSFT is in special measures, having been rated inadequate for a third time in November.

Image caption Prof Jonathan Warren took over as NSFT chief executive in April

"This isn't a situation that we want to continue at all," said Prof Jonathan Warren, who took over as chief executive in April.

"I think the root cause of the problem is our ability to care for people out of hospital in the way that we want to."

Data released under the Freedom of Information Act shows that some patients from Norfolk and Suffolk were sent as far away as Taunton in Somerset (302 miles; 486km) and Darlington in County Durham (219 miles; 352km).

Image caption Some patients have been sent hundreds of miles for treatment

Rolling year-on-year figures show placements have risen by 15% in the past year and 27.5% in the past two years.

April's placements cost the trust £1.2m and it has warned that if levels do not drop, it will overspend by £5.8m this year.

Campaigners said the 16 new beds due before autumn would not be enough, saying at least 64 were required.

A spokesman for the Campaign to Save Mental Health Services in Norfolk and Suffolk said: "This is as a result of a meltdown in community mental health services and a lack of investment [and] closure of mental health beds consistently over the last five or six years."

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