Out of Area Beds

Out of Area Beds

While you still might be out of your area when Mental Health Out of Placements cease to exist and how Recovery Houses in Bridport and Shaftesbury might be part of the solution.

With the Government eliminating Out of Area Placements (OAP) for acute mental health patients due to lack of beds is there enough capacity in Dorset to prevent this practice and will they be local enough?

Nationally, between August 2018 and July 2019 over 8,000 patients were sent out of their normal mental health area due to the lack of beds and in Dorset the authorities spent over £1m sending patients to London and as far away as Manchester to receive acute mental Health Care . Whilst patients might be receiving the right care , being treated hundreds of miles away in an unfamiliar town where family and friends find it almost impossible to visit , can add to the distress and makes recovery times much slower according to MIND.

Thus In 2016 the department of Health and Social Care stated that; ‘Patients should be treated in a location which helps them to retain the contact they want to maintain with family, carers and friends, and to feel as familiar as possible with the local environment’ (Source: 1 Out of Area Placements in Mental Health Services for Adults in Acute Care Sep 2016 Department of Health and Social Care). This meant that sending patients Out of Area was to be eliminated by the Spring of 2021. Over the last 30 years the number of inpatient beds in England has fallen by 73% from over 67,000 to under 19,000 with promises of greater resources for ’Care in the Community’. However whilst many NHS Trusts generated vast incomes from the sale of assets and staff savings many thousands ended up on the streets and in debt as they weren’t supported properly.

Over the last ten years has seen a large reduction for 24/7 acute care beds in Dorset and there are no beds in outlying towns of Bridport Sherbourne and Shaftesbury with the Linden unit also set to close down in Weymouth. Also NHS Dorset currently has no Mental Health Recovery Houses in Dorset. More beds have been added at Forston Clinic (Dorchester) and St Anne’s Hospital but does this serve the outlying towns and villages of Dorset?

Mark Harris (Head of Mental Health Service and Learning Disabilities NHS Dorset) said: ‘Over the course of the last year, the need to place individuals in out of area acute hospital beds has diminished and the Dorset system is on course to achieve the government aim of having no acute hospital out of area placements. ‘

Whilst NHS Dorset might be on course to deliver the Governments guidelines the centralisation of acute care inpatient beds this might still leave people to travel beyond the recommend the 33 mile limit. If Forston Clinic is running at 100% capacity and someone has to be admitted to St Anne’s instead this could feel ‘Out of Area’ if they come from Lyme Regis or Shaftesbury. Travel times would exceed the recommended 25 minute driving time and if friends or family have to travel by public transport this could take a lot longer. If they introduced Recovery Houses in areas like Shaftesbury and Bridport this might ease the burden on acute facilities and patients would be more likely to recover quickly being closer to friends and family.

Only time will tell if this strategy of centralisation will work in the long term.

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