Astonishing rise in delayed mental health discharges

Astonishing rise in delayed mental health discharges

NHS England has revealed that 17,509 bed days in psychiatric trusts were lost in October 2016, an increase of over 55% compared to November 2015.

Sean Duggan, chief executive at the Mental Health Network - who represent providers of NHS commissioned services - appeared on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme (06/01/2016), citing the social care crisis and lack of appropriate housing as key causes of bed blocking, a view echoed widely by other experts on mental health.

An additional factor specific to mental health is the lack of community psychiatric provision and the more recent reduction in detox services, which are more frequently a part of mental health support.

Responding to the findings a spokeswoman from the Department of Health affirmed that there would be an investment of £400m over four years to provide mental health support people in their homes, going further, she said: "No-one should face unnecessary delays in being discharged. The Five Year Forward View for Mental Health will transform services by 2020/21 to make sure urgent improvements are made."

Paul Farmer, chief executive of the mental health charity Mind, said: "These types of problems are symptomatic of mental health historically not being given the attention and funding it deserves - mental health services have been underfunded for decades, at a time of rising demand."

Mental health certainly has a long history of being – no pun intended –  treated without parity with physical healthcare. Norman Lamb, former Liberal Democrat minister and a key champion of parity for mental health services, asserted that “mental health has suffered much more in terms of financial terms than the rest of the NHS, there's a discrimination."

Discrimination or otherwise, without a properly funded social care system to provide support for people upon discharge, the burden will inevitably fall back on the NHS. Delayed discharges cost the NHS round £820m a year. If a similar figure, had been or is invested directly and immediately into social care you would expect this cost to fall drastically, to an unprecedented minimum.

This week’s plea from prominent MP’s for a cross party review of the social care sector is a step in the right direction, but will only succeed if political and media pressure upon this government is maintained. Unfortunately, given the state of all aspects of health and social care currently, they will have plenty of ammunition to do so.