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OOA figures highlight lack of mental health resources

Doctors wellbeing, mental health

Doctors in Scotland have called for extra resources and staff for mental health services after research revealed more than a thousand patients have been sent out of their area for care.

Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act showed that 1,007 patients were found beds far from their homes between 2014-15 and 2016-17.

One patient was forced to travel 480 miles from Glasgow to Tavistock in Devon, the information, supplied by health boards to the Scottish Conservatives, shows.

People with diagnosis of eating disorders, bipolar and severe depression were among those treated outside their health board area. Those in rural areas, such as NHS Highland, were more likely to travel long distances than those in cities such as Edinburgh and Glasgow.

BMA Scottish council deputy chair Nikki Thompson said the out-of-area figures pointed to a wider problem.

‘The demands on mental health services are significant and growing, but resourcing and staffing levels remain insufficient to meet patients’ needs,’ she said.

‘It is common for emergency patients to wait hours for a bed, and often they have to be sent many miles from home and family at the very time when they are at their most vulnerable.

‘The distances often involved can rule out regular visits from friends and relatives at a time in their lives when their support matters most,’ she added.

‘Although some progress has been made in recent years, much more needs to be done if the historic under-resourcing and under-staffing of mental health services in hospitals and the community are to be reversed and patients, and their families, provided with the services they need.’

Scottish Conservative mental health spokeswoman Annie Wells said: ‘The scale of these figures suggests some health boards in Scotland just aren’t equipped to deal with a range of conditions.’

The Scottish Government said just 1.5 per cent were forced to travel outside their area for treatment.

Some specialist services were provided on a regional or national basis. Patients admitted to such services are recorded as being transferred from their home board. 

Read more on out-of-area mental health beds: Far from home, far from hope

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