This week I published figures which showed over 4,000 patients have been sent for mental health treatment outside of their health board area in the past five years.
Despite the number of patients being discharged from psychiatric hospitals in Scotland falling dramatically in the past decade, hundreds of patients are still facing being treated away from their families and communities.
There will always be some patients who need to be sent to specialist clinics outside of their health board for treatment. But it is clear that mental health units across the country are struggling to cope with demand on their services.
We know that sending patients out of area can isolate them from their support networks, including friends, families and their community care team.
The life-changing nature of such a move means it could also have implications for the civil liberties of an indidividual – which must be considered under the Mental Health (Care and Treatment) (Scotland) Act 2003.
It can be detrimental to a persons recovery.
The Royal College of Psychiatrists sets out a good case for why we need to develop local provision for the treatment and care of people with longer-term, complex mental health problems.
You can find out more here, but they say that a person should be able to remain living in their community of origin, if that is their wish and their needs are not so specialised that local provision is not feasible.
They go on to say that it is hard to find another example in the NHS where a patient has to leave their home area to be resettled many miles away for long periods of time, merely to access a standard treatment environment.
They warn that too often, patients can be effectively forgotten by the mental health service that sent them there. The situation represents an unacceptable “out of sight, out of mind” approach to the care of those with longer-term and more complex mental health needs.
It’s why I am calling for the SNP Government to enshrine parity in law between the treatment of mental and physical ill health.
These figures are disappointing. Though sadly they come as no surprise, given that there is only one CAMHS bed for the whole North of Scotland.
The Mental Welfare Commission has already highlighted how too many young people are being treated in unsuitable adult units. Waiting times for key mental health treatments for both adults and young people are still being missed.
Thousands can’t even access treatment in the first place because their conditions don’t fit with the strict guidelines.
I welcome moves to treat more people in the community but there will always be some individuals with complex and longer-term mental health needs who cannot be discharged home.
Mental health problems will affect one in four people each year in Scotland. it is clear that local health boards do not have the resources needed to cope with demand. Too many mental health care units are creaking at the seams.
I will be looking into this issue further as its clear we have much more to find out about the implications of out of area treatments on individuals requiring treatment for mental health.
In the meantime, I hope you can back my calls to the Scottish Government to get serious about mental health.
You can back my call here: scotlibdems.org.uk/mentalhealth