Mental health discharge delays on the rise

Norman Lamb
Norman Lamb
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RISING DELAYS for mental health patients leaving hospital have been revealed by new figures.

Analysis by NHS England showed 17,509 ‘bed days’ were lost as a result of mental health trusts being unable to discharge patients in October 2016, a 56 per cent on the November 2015 figure.

The figure at the Leeds and York Partnership NHS Trust rose from 72 to 402 days over the same period.

So-called bed-blocking, where hospitals struggle to discharge patients because there is nowhere suitable for them to go, has been identified as a major problem for general hospitals.

But the NHS figures, produced for the Liberal Democrats, suggest the problem is rising faster in trusts specialising in mental health.

Liberal Democrat health spokesman Norman Lamb said: “If patients cannot be discharged it often leaves hospitals full to overflowing. The knock-on effect is that patients needing inpatient care are sent out of their area because there are no beds available - an outrageous practice which is associated with an increased risk of suicide. This is intolerable.

“Mental health services in the NHS remain scandalously under-funded, but it is made worse by the squeeze on local authority budgets.

“A radical upgrade in mental health care in the community and the home is essential if we are to achieve genuine equality for people with mental ill health, and put a stop to this dreadful rise in mental health patients being stuck in hospital.”

The Leeds and York Partnership NHS Trust is trying to tackle the problem of delayed discharges as part of a wider initiative called Leeds Mental Health Flow.

The project aims to reduce the number of people who cannot be discharged or who must be sent long distances for further treatment.

Improvements could save £1.5m a year for the NHS.