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Mental health beds in England at near full capacity

Almost all mental health beds in England available through the NHS are taken, forcing many patients to receive treatment outside of their local area.

In a poll from the Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCP), which included 320 psychiatrists from across the country, 92% said that fewer than 5% of mental health beds were available in their trust.

The RCP recommends that 15% of beds should be available at any given time in order to provide appropriate mental health care to those that need it.

There are currently 17,700 beds available in England that are reserved for people in need of immediate care as a result of a mental health issue.

Taking into consideration a 92% occupancy rate, the poll suggests that only around 1,400 beds remain available.

In the case of high or complete occupancy of mental health beds within a person's local area, patients are referred for treatment at a different trust.

This frequently leads to people travelling long distances to receive treatment and cause distress for patients and their families.

Travelling long distances often delays the start of treatment which not only slows a patient's recovery, but can also lead to more patients in need of urgent and emergency care if they don't get the help they need on time.

Fragmented care can also cause complications for psychiatry teams that need to coordinate with different trusts in order to eventually discharge patients.

Alternatively, patients can receive community care, however, this does increase risk to patients and others.

Just over 1 in 3 respondents said they would find a bed for patients outside of their local area, while 1 in 4 said they would delay admission and treat them in the community.

The figures have been slammed by Dr Adrian James, President of the RCP, who stated: "The historic problem of shameful mental health bed shortages that Government pledged to end in 2021 is only getting worse.

"More and more people are in mental health crisis as a result of the pandemic and instead of being able to treat them, psychiatrists are forced to send them miles from home or ask them to wait for months on end to get help.

“It’s time we stopped treating those with mental illness like second class citizens and offer them the same quality of care as patients with physical health conditions.”

In response to the findings, the RCP calls for an extra £150 million of funding in 2021/22 to 'bridge the gap' between inpatient care and community support and provide support for people returning home from mental health inpatient facilities.

In addition, it calls for the Government to build 6 new mental health hospitals by 2024/25.


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