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150 mental health patients transferred to England for treatment

News round-up by Conor D'Andrade

Over the past 5 years, 150 mental health patients from Scotland have been transferred to England and Wales for treatment, according to a freedom of information request.

The longest distance travelled by a patient was 600 miles from Inverness to London, with another transferred 552 miles for treatment for an eating disorder because “no beds were available in Scotland." No beds being available, alongside local hospitals having inappropriate facilities and a lack of treatments locally, are reported as the reasons for the transfers. The costs for transferring these patients from Scotland to England and Wales total more than £15m between 2017/2018 and 2021/2022.

“This deeply alarming research highlights the intolerable reality facing many vulnerable patients in Scotland," said Sue Webber, shadow minister for Mental Wellbeing. “Travelling long distances for any medical treatment is far from satisfactory, but for patients with complex psychiatric or psychological issues, it is actively detrimental to their mental wellbeing and chances of recovery.”

Separation from friends and family at a time when they most need support from their loved ones is unacceptable, added Webber.

There are legitimate reasons from cross-border transfer of psychiatric patients, said a Scottish Government spokesperson, “including receiving care and treatment appropriate to their needs, and individuals from other countries returning home after a period of care and treatment."

Calls for anxiety screening for all adults under 65

An expert panel supported by the US government has called for all adults under 65 to be screened for anxiety disorders. The US Preventive Services task force made the recommendation following the mental health impact of the pandemic. Alongside anxiety disorders, the task force also recommended that all adults should receive testing for depression, but did not recommend this type of screening be extended for suicide. While the panel highlighted suicide as a leading cause of death among adults in the US, it said that there was "not enough evidence on whether screening people without signs or symptoms will ultimately help prevent suicide." The task force made similar suggestions in April for children and adolescents, suggesting that those aged between 8 and 18 should be screened for anxiety. The reports highlighted several studies that demonstrated that screening for anxiety led to improved identification and treatment of the disorder. The recommendations only include people who have not already received a mental health diagnosis for another disorder or do not display typical symptoms for diagnosis. Professor Lori Pbert, from the Department of Population and Quantitative Health Sciences at UMass Chan Medical School and task force member, said:

"When you go to your primary care provider, you get screened for many, many preventive conditions - blood pressure, heart rate, all kinds of things. "Mental health conditions are just important as other physical conditions, and we really need to be treating mental health conditions with the same urgency that we do other conditions."

Report highlights barriers for young people wanting to volunteer

A new government-commissioned report has revealed that many young people are experiencing mental health as a barrier to entry to volunteering. The rapid evidence review, carried out by The Institute for Community Studies, found that work, family life and mental health acted as a “triple burden” barrier to entry for 11-to-30-year-olds considering voluntary roles. Of the regular volunteers that responded to the research, one in five said they had experienced burnout.

People that volunteered occasionally also felt that feelings of helplessness and increased awareness of social issues have made entering volunteering harder. The report also found that young people often feel guilty when they are unable to volunteer, even when the reason is due to them feeling overwhelmed by other external life factors. The report states: “The effects of global and national events on young people’s confidence and emotional security – particularly in the older, post 18 years age groups – were striking. “In total, 17 of the young people we spoke to across both methods referred to mental health as a factor affecting their engagement in volunteering. This was referenced across all life stages, with the Covid-19 pandemic exacerbating impact for many.”

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