Beds shortage shows failure to fix mental health crisis, says Labour

Elliot Chappell

The Tory government has “failed completely to fix the crisis in mental health care”, Labour has declared, after a new report revealed the impact of a shortage in mental health beds.

New research by the Royal College of Psychiatrists has shown that an additional 1,000 mental health beds are needed to combat the crisis that has seen people travel hundreds of miles from home to receive care.

Barbara Keeley, Labour’s spokesperson for mental health and social care, commented: “The government has completely failed to fix the crisis in mental health care, cutting beds but failing to invest in community mental health support, leaving staff with no other choice but to send patients long distances to receive the help they need.

“No one should be sent far away from home for mental health treatment, but this is the reality for hundreds of patients every year. Labour will end out of area placements and invest properly in mental health services so that funding reaches the front line of services.”

Patients with serious mental health conditions can be sent far from their homes and support networks with out-of-area placements. The Department of Health has said it aims to end this situation by 2021, but the new report suggests progress has not been made.

The number of inappropriate out-of-area placements has been between 700 and 800 patients in recent months. This is up from 600 at the end of last year.

The data shows that some NHS mental health trusts are operating with all their beds in use despite the view of the college that they should never exceed more than 85% of their capacity.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists is calling for an urgent increase in mental health beds. The total number has fallen from over 67,000 in the 1980s to 18,400 – a fall of 73%.

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