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Mental health patients sent miles due to bed shortage

Hundreds of mental health patients in England are sent to hospitals miles from home each month because of local bed shortages - more than a year after the NHS aimed to end the practice.

NHS data shows that 630 patients were in inappropriate out of area placements (OAPs) at the end of August 2022. 

An inappropriate OAP is when someone is sent to a hospital in a different area because no beds are free locally. Of the 630 patients in inappropriate OAPs in August 2022, more than half were sent away that month.

In 2019, Kelly was sectioned and - because no local bed was free - sent to a hospital 23 miles from her home.

"I didn't have anything on me", she says, "I only had my phone and the clothes that I was in."

With family members too far away to bring her possessions, the hospital provided basics: pyjamas, trousers, a T-shirt, one pair of socks and two pieces of underwear.

"All I could wear were the pyjamas and the same top and trousers every day for three weeks," says Kelly.

"It was just awful. When you're stuck in a strange place as it is... It's even more distressing not having your own familiar things to take comfort in."

Shortly after her discharge, Kelly was sectioned again - this time closer to home. She says this made a "massive difference", adding: "When you're closer to home you've got your friends and your family coming to visit you and take you out for a walk."

Paul Spencer, the charity Mind's head of health, policy & campaigns, describes OAPs as traumatic, isolating and costly to the NHS. He says that "people are cut off from their support networks right at the very moment they need them most".

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Source: BBC News, 16 November 2022


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