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The extent of bed blocking in mental health wards in Cornwall

The extent of bed blocking in mental health wards in Cornwall

Published by Sarah Yeomanat 7:00am 1st September 2019.

Bed blocking caused mental health patients to spend almost 1,500 extra days stuck in hospital in Cornwall last year.

A leading charity has called for more investment in community care, to help vulnerable patients return to their homes safely.

Figures from NHS Digital show the Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust lost 1,455 bed days in 2018-19 because of delays discharging mental health patients who were fit to leave hospital - the equivalent of almost four years.

Delayed discharges occur when a patient has been cleared to leave hospital but there are problems arranging their next steps.

This could include a lack of suitable housing or social care in a patient's community.

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"The Trust is committed to treating patients in the most appropriate environment. In some cases this means that a small number of patients will remain in a mental health hospital while an appropriate package of support is put in place.

"These are often very complex, vulnerable individuals and as a result it can take more time to ensure the right support is in place for when they leave hospital. 

"Since the Trust opened Cove Ward, a fast-track rehabilitation unit - no-one who requires an acute psychiatric inpatient bed has been treated outside of Cornwall.

"This is much better for the individuals, allowing them to retain contact with all their support networks including friends, family and local community.

"In addition, the Trust is working closing with housing organisations like Pivotal and Advance Housing to create long-term homes for people, where they can live safely, securely with a full range of support available to them for as long as they need it."

Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust

hospital bed

"The staggering rise in delays to discharge mental health patients from hospital reveals how patchy and threadbare care in the community has become.

"The suicide rate for people being cared for at home is now more than double that of patients in hospital, and there are also too many cases of people neglected and at risk because they have left hospital too early and without the support they need."

Marjorie Wallace, chief executive of Sane

The NHS's five-year plan for mental health, which was published in 2016, pledged to reduce delayed discharges and focus on expanding community-based services.

But across England, patients spent 273,630 unnecessary days in hospital because of delays in 2018-19.

That's the equivalent of 749 years.

This was lower than the previous year, but still 16% higher than in 2015-16.

Delays have also increased at the Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, with the number of bed days lost climbing by 77% since 2016-17.

According to a report by NHS Providers, long stays in mental health wards can cause successful treatment to reverse, and patients to relapse.

The National Institute for Health and Social Care also warns it can lead to crowded wards and overstretched staff, which can increase the risk of serious incidents and delay patients with acute needs being admitted.

doctor health

"The solution is not simply to discharge people more quickly and risk unnecessary distress and loss of life, but to recreate effective community teams who can work with patients and their families as they make their transition from hospital back to their home.

"Until this happens, patients risk being discharged on a wing and a prayer that they will be able to live safely in the community."

Marjorie Wallace, chief executive of Sane

"The NHS is treating record numbers of patients for mental health conditions, the vast majority of which are seen and discharged in a timely manner.

"Investment in mental health funding will grow faster than the rest of the NHS budget so we can expand care in local areas making it easier to treat patients in the community and out of hospital."

Spokesman for NHS England 

You can find all the source data here.

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