Record demand for hospital beds
Mental health referrals at highest level
18 October, 2019 — By Tom Foot
NHS campaigner Shirley Franklin: ‘The increasing numbers of people who have critical mental healthcare is devastating’
DEMAND for emergency mental health beds has reached an unprecedented level, an NHS chief executive has warned.
Angela McNab, the boss of Camden and Islington Foundation Trust, said September saw the “highest recorded number” of referrals for inpatient beds.
The trust has responded by paying to rent beds from private sector providers – an expensive practice that can see vulnerable residents sectioned a long way from home.
Campaigners say the shock figures prove that more beds should be included in a new mental health hospital due to be built in Highgate.
In a report to her board, Ms McNab said: “Demand has continued to rise over the past month, with September seeing our highest recorded number of referrals for acute inpatient care.
“Colleagues across the trust have been working incredibly hard to manage this demand, including the teams in Ruby and Sapphire wards who reconfigured their wards within 24 hours to create additional capacity. Despite this work we have continued to see an increase in the use of out-of-area private beds in the past month.”
Campaigners have criticised C&I for failing to increase the number of beds it has on offer in designs for a new £70million mental health hospital it plans to build on land by the Whittington, Highgate.
The new hospital is replacing, but not expanding, inpatient services at St Pancras Hospital, which are moving to make way for a new Moorfields eye hospital on that site.
Shirley Franklin, who has campaigned for more beds for years, said: “The increasing numbers of people who have critical mental healthcare is devastating. There are probably multiple reasons for this – the diabolical impact of austerity which has increased poverty and stress and reducing services.”
She added: “At the same time, mental health acute beds have shockingly decreased by 100 beds in 2011, and a reduction in staff. And now we have a new residential mental health facility being built with no increase in beds.”
A C&I statement said “the spike in admissions in September has now subsided”, adding: “We remain confident that we have the right number of beds for our population, now and into the future.”
It added: “We need to do more, however, to increase capacity in our community teams and facilities which is why we will be investing significantly in this area.”