Mental health trusts see slash in funding

Hospital ward image

Sending patients outside of local area impacts on budget

NHS mental health trusts have had to reduce beds and staff available to cope with real term funding cuts, contributed to by having to send patients away from home for care.

The Health Service Journal investigation of all 57 NHS mental health providers showed a 2.3% real terms funding cut between 2011/12 and 2013/14, when numbers were adjusted for inflation. One in five trusts saw their income drop by 5-9%, whilst five saw budgets sink by more than 10%.

The results also demonstrated an overall reduction in nursing staff by 6% as well as the number of doctors employed decreasing by 2% over the same time period. Bed numbers dropped, however the bill for sending patients outside of their local area for care because of capacity problems, shot up.

Managing mental health

Sir Simon Wessely, president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists said mental health was “running dangerously close to collapse.” He continued “It is particularly alarming to see such reductions in staffing, yet another decrease in the number of inpatient beds and such a dramatic increase in the number of people being sent outside their trust to get the care they need because their local services are inadequate.”

Paul McCrone, a professor of health economics at the King’s College London told the HSJ “Out of area placements are a good indicator of heat within the system and how overstretched it is.” Demand for out of area beds has increased so much that some NHS hospitals are funding entire wards with patients from outside the local area.