A PATIENT from Kinmel Bay with mental health issues was sent 200 miles away for treatment. 

Darren Millar, MS for Clwyd West, highlighted the case of the constituent in the Senedd on Wednesday, May 8. 

The patient was sent to Durham for care as there were no mental health beds available in the region.

The Shadow Minister for North Wales called for a statement from the Cabinet Secretary for Health on “the significant cost of placing people with mental health problems outside of Wales”. 

Mr Millar said: “We know that the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board (BCUHB), just in the first three months of this year, has spent over £3.5 million sending mental health patients out of North Wales for care in other parts of the country. I had a constituent, who contacted me back in February, whose family member had been placed in Durham for a mental health bed because there wasn't the capacity in North Wales.

 “Clearly, that's unacceptable. We need to make sure that people are treated as closely to home as possible. I accept that there are specialist mental health services that people might need to access, but this was a general mental health in-patient bed, and that should have been available in North Wales.
“I'm very concerned that there isn't the capacity in our NHS, particularly in the BCUHB, to be able to care for mental health patients in the region.”
Responding, Jane Hutt MS, Trefnydd and Chief Whip, admitted “there are pressures on services”, but said these “are being addressed”.

Speaking after the meeting, Mr Millar said: “The minister’s words are little consolation for the patients and their loved ones impacted by these pressures.
“People with mental health issues need their family close by for support, not a three-hour drive away.
“North Wales should have the facilities and beds available to meet patient’s needs. No sick person should have to travel hundreds of miles away for treatment.”

Dr Alberto Salmoiraghi, medical director for Mental Health and Learning Disabilities at BCUHB, said: “Of course I am extremely sorry that some patients need to be treated in other areas of the UK and away from their homes and families. Those numbers have increased over the past 12 months.

“Some patients have complex issues which require the kind of specialist care only available in certain facilities, sometimes in locations far from North Wales. We try to treat people as close to home as we can and we are actively looking at ways in which we can reduce the numbers of people receiving their care outside of the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board area. This is an issue common to many health boards and local authorities.

“Some of those people listed as receiving out of area care are in fact cared for within the Health Board area. For instance the Hergest Unit may be closer to their home but capacity issues mean we have to send them to Heddfan or the Ablett Unit. In this case they will be classed as out of area.

“The costs of sending people out of area are often dictated by the kind of care they require and a few complex cases, needing long-term care can sometimes increase the overall figures substantially - but it is true to say those costs have risen consistently during the past 12 months. Some of that rise is undoubtedly as a result of the increase in numbers treated outside of the health board’s area and some can be due to increases in specialist care costs.

"Delayed discharges from already full inpatient wards affect our capacity to take in new patients. On many occasions these delays arise because a package of care is needed, in order for patients to be discharged safely.

“Another key issue for us is staffing levels and vacancies. Although we are making progress on increasing the numbers of colleagues in permanent roles, in common with the rest of the UK we are recruiting from a very competitive market for mental health professionals and this is taking time.

“Plans to build a state-of-the-art Adult and Older Persons Mental Health Unit at Glan Clwyd Hospital show our commitment to giving the people of North Wales the best possible care we can provide. This will also help us recruit staff and enhance our reputation among both users of our services and practitioners.”