2,000 people a month sent far from home for NHS mental health care

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Former health minister Norman Lamb attacks ‘discrimination at heart of NHS’ that in bed shortage prioritises patients with physical over mental health problems
Norman Lamb said out-of-area placements were an outrage.
Norman Lamb said out-of-area placements were an outrage. Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Of these, more than 500 end up as inpatients at least 30 miles from their home area, the Health and Social Care Information Centre data shows. This is despite such moves often causing great distress and increasing the risk of suicide among patients.

Campaigners said the figures showed that those with serious mental health problems suffered “complete discrimination” by the NHS that would never be tolerated for cancer or stroke patients.

“It’s an outrage what happens,” said Norman Lamb, the ex-health minister who obtained the figures and passed them to the Observer. “We know that out-of-area placements have a link to an increased risk of suicide. This would never, ever happen with a physical health problem, such as a stroke or heart failure. Why should we accept this for someone with acute mental illness, when we wouldn’t accept it for someone with cancer? It’s complete discrimination at the heart of the NHS.”

The figures show that in April – the first month such data was collected in a plan instigated by Lamb – 2,067 people were looked after as inpatients outside the area covered by their local mental health trust. By August, the figure was 2,198. The number of people sent more than 30 miles from their home area rose from 473 in April to 501 in August, the most recent month for which the HSCIC has released data.

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