You report (5 July) that mental health beds have reduced by 25% since 2010. The number of detentions under the Mental Health Act increased during the same period by 50%. As a result, there are increasingly long waits for admission, a lack of alternatives to inpatient care and regular admission to private hospitals (paid for by the NHS) many miles from the person’s home, family and community.
During the pandemic, patients requiring ventilation were moved to distant hospitals. This became headline news. It is routine in mental health care. Last month, a man was admitted to hospital 240 miles from home due to a lack of a suitable bed. His mother drove to visit him and had to stay in a B&B due to the distance. He is now closer to home, in another private hospital “only” 63 miles away.
It also applies to children and young people, who need specialist beds in child and adolescent mental health services (Camhs). We have examples of young people who have had to wait in police cells, adult wards or at home for days after a decision that they needed immediate admission to hospital. Only last week, an adolescent was left in a police cell for 48 hours awaiting admission. This is not an isolated incident; our members report that they are regularly informed that there are no Camhs beds available nationally.
We are tired of hearing about the millions being invested in mental health services. There needs to be sufficient beds available. Equally important is investment in resources to prevent people reaching the stage of needing admission, and services to support people in crisis without needing inpatient care.
Chair, National Approved Mental Health Professional Leads Network
Your article misses the point (Yes, lockdown was bad for mental health. Not to do it would have been worse, 5 July). Yes, in general, mental health was affected by the pandemic, but for those who use mental health services, the response in terms of assessments and help in a crisis was simply not there. But this isn’t new. With 25% of mental health beds lost in a decade, many patients fail to get the help they need. There needs to be urgent action in mental health and social care so that if we have another lockdown there are not so many people who are already feeling ill and unsupported.
Ruth F Hunt
Burscough, West Lancashire