Number of patients missing from hospital doubles

The Royal Edinburgh Hospital. Picture: TSPL

The Royal Edinburgh Hospital. Picture: TSPL

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The number of patients who have gone missing from the Royal Edinburgh Hospital has almost doubled in four years, the Evening News can reveal.

New figures show that 94 patients walked out of the psychiatric facility without warning this year – compared with just 52 in 2011.

The frequency of those absconding from the Morningside hospital is also significantly higher than last year, when 66 people were recorded missing. But NHS Lothian, which runs the unit, said the rise could be partly explained by more robust reporting.

The 2014 figures do not include the final two months of the year. However, they contain the highest number of absconsions over the four-year period.

Overall city figures hit a low of 143 in 2012.

Councillor Ricky Henderson, the city’s health leader, has called for an investigation.

He said: “On the face of it the figures are concerning, but I think more work would be required to investigate the circumstances behind the numbers to see if there are any practical issues that need to be addressed.”

A total of 200 patients went missing from the city’s three hospitals – the Royal Edinburgh, Edinburgh Royal Infirmary and the Western General – from January 1 to October 31 this year, according to data obtained via Freedom of Information.

The health board said the number of absconsions from the Royal Edinburgh was recorded differently to those at the ERI and Western, which only relate to patients who walk out without being discharged.

Lorna Martin, chief nurse of Royal Edinburgh and Associated Services, said: “Some of this rise can be attributed to improved reporting put in place since 2011.

“All absconsions are now recorded, no matter how short they are, so that they can be fully investigated to ensure safe care and effective treatment plans are in place.

“Unlike the Royal Infirmary and Western General, the Royal Edinburgh is a psychiatric hospital where all patients who leave the ward without permission or fail to return from a pass are recorded as absconding.

“All patients have a pass plan which states if they are allowed out at all, the amount of time they are allowed out and what should be done if they fail to return. We work with Police Scotland in assessing risk of both self-harm and harm to others as part of the plan.”

The Royal Edinburgh provides acute psychiatric and mental health services, including treatment for dementia.

kaye.nicolson@edinburghnews.com