Discharge delays more common in mental health trusts

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New data from NHS England has found more delays in discharges from mental health trusts than seen in other parts of the NHS.

Acute NHS trusts had a 30% rise in the number of bed days lost to delayed discharges, while mental health trusts saw a rise of 56%. The data compared discharge numbers in October 2016 with November 2015.

The number of bed days lost in psychiatric trusts during October 2016 was 17,509. In their broader analysis of the figures, NHS England found an increase of 43% lost bed days when trusts that provide community as well as mental health services were taken into account.

The research was commissioned by Liberal Democrat MP and former care minister, Norman Lamb. He said: ‘It’s all part of a system under impossible strain. Mental health has suffered much more in terms of financial terms than the rest of the NHS, there’s a discrimination.’

It is thought that a combination of rising demand and cuts to local authority budgets had led to a lack of social care packages available to patients upon discharge, which could explain the rise seen in the data.

However, other factors may include poor community psychiatric provision and a lack of support services such as detox.

Chief Executive of the mental health charity Mind, Paul Farmer, said: ‘The time after leaving hospital is critical as that is when people are at the greatest risk of taking their own lives. People need the right support to recover and manage their mental health properly and trusts should be planning properly for discharge from the point at which someone goes into hospital.

‘These types of problem are symptomatic of mental health historically not being given the attention and funding it deserves – mental health services have been underfunded for decades, at a time of rising demand.’

A spokeswoman from the Department of Health said: ‘No one should face unnecessary delays in being discharged. The Five Year Forward View for Mental Health will transform services by 2020/21 to make sure urgent improvements have been made.’

The Five Year Forward View for Mental Health was published by NHS England in February 2016, and set out the changes recommended to improve mental health care. This includes a £400 million investment over 4 years to support people in their homes.