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Patients sectioned to get a hospital bed

The Royal College of Psychiatrists warns that costs to mental health services has led to a "bed crisis"

3 June 2014

Results from a survey carried out by The Royal College of Psychiatrists' Psychiatric Trainees’ Committee suggest that many patients, including children, have been sent miles away from their local area just so they could be admitted.

The survey of 576 junior doctors working in psychiatry in the UK found that 25% of them had been told by a bed manager that unless their patient had been sectioned they would not get a bed.

And 37% said a colleague's decision to detain a patient under the Mental Health Act had been influenced by the fact that doing so might make the provision of a bed more likely.

Seven in 10 said they had experienced difficulty in finding an appropriate bed for a patient at least once. And 83% of those working in services for children and teens had experienced the problem.

Four in five said they had been forced to send a patient outside the local area for a bed, with a third saying they had sent a patient at least 100 miles outside their local area.

For those working with children and teenagers, 22% said they had been forced to send a child 200 miles away from their families just so they could have a bed. And 28% said they have sent a critically unwell patient home because no bed could be found.

Emma Jones from the human rights team of law firm Leigh Day who specialises in cases involving those with mental health needs said: “Sectioning an individual when they do not meet the legal criteria to be sectioned is to deny basic human rights.

“The Mental health Act provides legal authority to detain an individual; it gives approved mental health workers the power to admit an individual to hospital if it is considered necessary and the best way of ensuring the right care is provided.

“Health professionals must be satisfied that detention in hospital is the most appropriate way of providing treatment and care. If an individual is detained who doesn’t meet the criteria then the individual is likely to be unlawfully detained.

“It is crucial that individuals are provided with the treatment they require but without having to lose their liberty, as would be the case for individuals with physical health needs. Mental health services must receive adequate funding to ensure adequate treatment is provided.”

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