Manchester Withington MP and Vice-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Mental Health Jeff Smith has called out the Prime Minister for the ‘yawning gap’ between her rhetoric and the reality of mental health services.
In Prime Minister’s Questions, Jeff raised the case of a constituent whose son was taken to A&E during a mental health crisis earlier this year. She was told that the nearest bed was in West Sussex, 215 miles away from her home in Burnage, Manchester.
Out-of-area beds – Out-of-area mental health placements are becoming more frequent than ever, as the number of specialist beds falls under this Government. There are currently 18,353 mental health beds in the UK – 2.5% lower than last year, 16.7% lower than five years ago, and 32% lower than ten years ago.
As a result, the number of people being send out of their area for mental health treatment increased almost 40% last year. These beds are frequently in private hospitals, with the NHS spending £159 million in 2016/17 in commissioning mental health beds in private settings (up 47% from 2014/15).
Manchester – Manchester Mental Health Trust (MMHT) is one of the worst affected areas by the squeeze on funding for mental health beds, ranking the highest in out-of-area placements of anywhere outside London. MMHT doubled the amount it spent on commissioning out-of-area beds over the last two years from £3 million to £6 million.
Commenting after PMQs, Jeff said: “The tragic case of my constituent Carol and her son highlights the yawning gap between the Prime Minister’s rhetoric on mental health and the reality on the ground.
Almost a year ago to the day the Prime Minister announced her plan to ‘transform’ mental health services but our NHS is spending more today on commissioning out-of-area private beds than ever before.
People in crisis need support networks close by but for my constituent, seeing her son means a 450 mile round-trip. Unfortunately, her case is far from unique with 6,000 people in crisis sent as far as 587 miles to get the treatment they needed last year.
A Labour government would ring-fence mental health budgets to ensure that funding reaches the frontline and bring treatment closer to home by ending out-of-area placements.
Unless she makes the same commitments, the Prime Minister’s warm words on mental health will never become a reality.”