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Report finds mental health patients kept on hospital wards too long

Leading human rights lawyer welcomes a new study which examined the suitability of placements for mental health patients

Nurse in corridor

6 October 2016

A leading human rights lawyer has welcomed a new study which examined the suitability of placements for mental health patients.

The study, led by Dr Richard Laugharne, a consultant psychiatrist from the Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, examined a situation in 2014 when a mental health facility had to be suddenly closed down due to the discovery of a fire safety issue. The temporary closure meant the loss of 30 out of the 54 acute psychiatric beds in the county.

At the time of the closure 26 patients were receiving care at the facility but when they were assessed only 10 were deemed to be in need of an acute bed. This led to a retrospective analysis of the situation by a group of authors which has been published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine Open.

The study found that there was a need for a greater focus on moving patients from acute mental health care units after nine weeks of admission to release pressure on acute units and ensure the most appropriate care for patients. It found that many patients who had been on acute wards for nine weeks or more could be receiving more appropriate care elsewhere.  However, the process of securing funding to provide more appropriate treatment methods was a long and bureaucratic process.

The study suggested that by keeping patients on the acute units unnecessarily it was resulting in new patients being placed in treatment facilities hundreds of miles from their homes and away from friends and family.

A target for the elimination of inappropriate out of area placements in mental health services for adults in acute inpatient care has ben set by the Government to be met by 2021.

Emma Jones, human rights solicitor at Leigh Day, said: “Leaving people in acute settings for longer than required can lead to deterioration in their mental health, which means they require longer treatment – it becomes a revolving door issue, which ultimately leads to increased costs but more worryingly can lead to further distress for patients and their families.

“Ensuring people are in the most appropriate setting for their needs, close to family and friends or in an area with which they are familiar is vital for their wellbeing and helps for a quicker return to mental wellness.”

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