Pressure On Mental Health Trusts 'Rising'

Survey Of Doctors Shows Patients Are Sectioned To Secure Access To A Bed

03.06.2014

A survey published by the Royal College of Psychiatrists has found that many junior doctors believe pressure on mental health trusts is rising to breaking point.

When 576 trainees were asked about their views on how the NHS dealt with people needing specialist psychological treatment, a number of worrying practices were revealed.

Some 18 per cent of doctors said they had detained a patient under the Mental Health Act (sectioned) because doing so would make the provision of a bed more likely, while a further 37 per cent said they had seen someone else utilise this practice.

Around a quarter said a bed manager told them their patient had no chance of getting an inpatient bed unless they were sectioned.

While detaining someone under the Mental Health Act is useful in emergencies, it leaves the patient with a criminal record and should not be used unless crimes have been committed, or there is a fear of self-harm.

But the Royal College of Psychiatrists study finds beds at mental health trusts are in short supply, with 30 per cent of doctors claiming to have sent a critically-ill patient home because they could not find an appropriate place for them to stay.

Children were also affected by this lack of resource, with 22 per cent of those surveyed having sent a young person over 200 miles from their families to get treatment due to a lack of local options.

One young psychiatrist, who wants to remain anonymous, told the BBC: "[A] patient presented to us, they needed to be admitted, we couldn't admit them locally, they were admitted to a hospital hundreds of miles away. The care they received was not what we'd have done and they died."

Norman Lamb, care minister, said it is "not acceptable" that people were sectioned because they needed an inpatient bed.

"Decisions about detention must always be taken in the best interests of patients at risk of harming themselves or others," he told the BBC.

Expert Opinion
The results of this survey are deeply concerning and highlight the devastating consequences that a lack of resource can have on patients.

“Mental health patients are vulnerable and often require specialist care to help manage their illness, but sectioning should be a last resort to protect both the safety of them and others. Not simply so they are guaranteed a bed.

“We hope that appropriate action is now taken by the Government to ensure mental health facilities have the appropriate resource to provide suitable care to patients to improve standards and protect patient safety.”
Julie Lewis, Partner