Your review of the TV documentary Hospital mentioned that 7,000 NHS beds have been lost in England over the last six years. The actual total is much larger. Official NHS data show that available general and acute medicine beds have reduced by 9,000, while those for mental health and learning disability have declined by 6,000, giving an overall loss of 15,000 beds. So far, so bad.
But this is not the most alarming part of the story. One in 16 beds have been lost in general and acute medicine – but one in five beds in mental health. Given that mental health services had already, in the move to community-based care, lost the majority of their beds, this subsequent reduction seems particularly disproportionate.
As a result, the remaining mental health beds have been continually over-occupied. The accepted level of bed occupancy for efficient use is 85 per cent – for mental health, this has continued to increase from 87 per cent in 2011 to over 90 per cent now. The pressure on these beds, already excessive, has reached a level that too often renders impossible any efficient management of these expensive resources.
We have heard much from politicians, and others, of the notion of “parity of esteem” for mental health services. The inexorable degradation of these services suggests that this phrase has become a sentimental nostrum to disguise political inertia and disinterest rather than a genuinely felt activating principle that could drive significant change. Meanwhile, time that should be spent with patients is, instead, frittered away in wrestling with successive bed crises, each of which follows hot on the heels of the last.
Dr Philip Timms FRCPsych – Honorary Senior Lecturer, KCL
Anybody familiar with Freudian Theory will be aware of defence mechanisms, the means we use to avoid responsibility or self-awareness.
None of the current Health Ministers are competent or qualified to do their jobs. Theresa May has no experience whatsoever in this area. Claiming that the crisis in the NHS is down to GP surgeries not being open for long enough is either projection or displacement.
The result of these two defence mechanisms is scapegoating and that is exactly what she and
Hunt especially are doing. She’s even gone so far as to make the statement about GPs from “Downing Street” rather than herself.
They are responsible, let’s be clear, not GPs.