Scots mental health patients ‘waiting years’ to be discharged

Scots mental health patients are waiting years to be charged. Picture; stock image
Scots mental health patients are waiting years to be charged. Picture; stock image

Mental health patients across the UK are waiting for years to be discharged, it has been reported.

At least 91 patients have waited more than a year to be discharged, while at least seven were stuck in mental units for more than two years, according to data obtained by the BBC under freedom of information laws.

England, Scotland and Northern Ireland each had at least one case where a patient had to wait more than three years before they were discharged.

NHS Lothian saw the longest wait, recorded at 1,200 days, while NHS Tayside had one delay of 1,196 days and NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde a delay of 1,193.

The Tayside and Glasgow patients had complex needs and were awaiting transfer to specialist facilities. There was no reason provided for the delay in Lothian.

When the freedom of information requests were processed in February, NHS Tayside had 29.4% of acute mental health care beds taken up by patients who had been declared ready for discharge.

This was down to 16% on 1 August.

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The figures covering the past two years showed 320 patients had to wait at least 100 days before being discharged.

Dr Sridevi Kalidindi, of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, told the BBC that disagreements between different health bodies over funding of a patient’s placement could lead to delays.

She said: “Where those relationships are not quite right, where everyone feels under a lot of pressure in terms of their own finances that’s often where people can disagree.”

Dr Kalidindi also said a cap on benefits made it harder for providers to meet demand.

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“We know around the country of supported housing placements closing down as a result of this.

“We also know of supported housing that was going to come online being shelved by large housing providers who are in this space.”

Billy Watson, chief executive of the Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH), reduced budgets for social care was clearly a reason for such lengthy delays.

He said: “Keeping people with mental health problems in hospital longer than is necessary isn’t good for their mental health or their long-term recovery. We want to see people being treated on an individual basis and settling back into their community as soon as they are ready to do so.

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“If services aren’t available in the community, then people can’t be safely discharged from hospital. We need to start investing in our community mental health services.”

Nigel Henderson, chief executive of Penumbra, a third sector organisation that runs a step-down house in Edinburgh to ease the pressure on hospital acute beds said: “One of the biggest challenges is that with health and social care partnerships, their funding comes from the local authority and from the NHS.

“While the idea was to create a ‘health and social care pound’, we’re actually still seeing it identified as a ‘local authority pound’ and an ‘NHS pound’.

“In terms of that integrated thing, we still need to see budgets that are actually in the ownership, if you like, of the health and social care partnership and people aren’t saying ‘that’s our money and we need to see if go this way’.”