Expert commission backs Norman Lamb's call to abolish out of area mental health placements

Norman Lamb’s call to end the scandal of mental health patients being shunted across the country has received the backing of a landmark report on acute psychiatric care.

The Commission on Acute Adult Psychiatric Care, led by Lord Crisp, was set up by the Royal College of Psychiatrists in response to concerns about the provision of services for people with severe mental illness.  Its report found that there are “major problems both in admissions to psychiatric wards and in providing alternative care and treatment in the community”.

One of the Commission’s key recommendations is that the practice of sending acutely ill patients long distances for non-specialist mental health treatment is phased out by October 2017, following months of campaigning by the Liberal Democrats.

Norman Lamb, the Liberal Democrat spokesperson for Health, led a House of Commons debate in November to highlight the scandal of out-of-area placements, and challenged the Government to commit to ending the practice completely within 12 months. The Government pledged at the time to make a recommendation based on the findings of Lord Crisp’s Commission, which reported today.

Official figures suggest that each month around 500 mental ill patients have to travel over 50km away from their home to a hospital bed. The report concluded that these long distances “are mainly due to difficulties in finding acute inpatient beds or suitable alternative services in their home area, and are a symptom of far more widespread problems in the functioning of the whole mental health system.”

Commenting on the new report, Norman Lamb said: “I am delighted with the recommendation of ending the scandal of out of area placements. The Government has already committed to taking a view based on the findings of this Commission, and I now urge the minister to commit to ending this outrageous practice.

“Being sent out-of-area during a mental health crisis – sometimes hundreds of miles away from family and friends – can cause unimaginable distress. We also know that being treated out-of-area raises the risk of suicide after being discharged from hospital. There is simply no excuse for allowing this to continue.

“This practice would never be tolerated in physical health services. It is an example of the total discrimination at the heart of our NHS, and one of the many examples of how people who suffer from acute mental ill health are disadvantaged by the system.”

Other recommendations in the report include:

  • A new waiting time pledge is included in the NHS Constitution from October 2017 of a maximum four-hour wait for admission to an acute psychiatric ward or acceptance for home-based treatment, in line with existing targets in physical health;
  • Commissioners and providers should undertake a service capacity assessment and improvement programme to ensure that they have an appropriate number of beds and Crisis Resolution and Home Treatment teams;
  • Better access to accommodation for those suffering mental illness;
  • Pilots to improve the experience of care for people from Black and Minority Ethnic communities
  • The collection, quality and use of data is radically improved to improve service quality, evidence-based care, and accountability.  

The full report can be accessed here

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