Patients at risk due to cuts in mental health services

  • Doctor tells British Medical Association that cuts are to blame for avoidable deaths and suicides.

    The British Medical Association's annual meeting has been told that mental health services are in a critical state due to significant cuts. /images/mentalhealth.jpg

    In the past three years mental health services across England have had to cut beds by 9% with one trust spending thousands of pounds putting patients up in bed and breakfast accommodation, due to no beds being available, reports the Guardian.

    Dr Andrew Collier, co-chair of the BMA junior doctors committee, said: "The services we provide are under increased stress. But at the very time people need support most, mental health services are being cut. Recent freedom of information requests have shown that since 2011 at least 1,700 mental health beds have been closed. That represents a 9% reduction in the number of available beds. Time and again we're told that when beds are cut it's part of an overall strategy to invest in better, improved services but I'm beginning to think that's not the case. The situation is now so bad that a quarter of junior doctors working in psychiatry have been told that unless the patient is subject to the Mental Health Act, a bed won't be found.''

    He said that patients often had to travel huge distances to find care. "One mental health trust has even spent £345,000 to put patients in bed and breakfast services simply because there are no beds. The constant fire-fighting due to the abysmal shortages we face has got to end. If the government is serious about achieving parity of esteem for mental health services these damaging cuts and closures must stop now."

    Dr Jason Holdcroft, a psychiatry trainee, said he had seen "ever-growing" strain on services over the last four years. Faced for much of the time with a chronic shortage of beds, community teams are forced to manage ever more unwell patients at home with dwindling resources. In trying to free up beds more quickly there is pressure on in-patient teams to discharge patients as early as possible into the care of community mental health teams who may have lost their occupational therapist, their psychologist, and often a proportion of their nurses too. The end result of all of this is sometimes tragedy - avoidable deaths and suicides where the system has not provided the care that patients need."

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