Huge bills for extra mental health beds

The Harbour, Mereside

The Harbour, Mereside

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Blackpool’s £40m state-of-the-art mental health facility The Harbour is full to capacity forcing some care providers to spend up to £800 a night on private beds for mental health patients in Lancashire.

Some patients in Lancaster have even been forced to sleep in a converted lounge with no toilet provisions as Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust (LCFT) resorts to “contingency facilities” due to a local and national shortage of beds.

Trust bosses say they are considering the possibility of opening a clinical decision unit in Blackpool and the development of community based Acute Therapy Service to try and relieve the problem.

However, many patients are being transported miles away to facilities outside of the county, as an increase in patients with acute mental health issues puts services at breaking point.

The Harbour - a 154 bed facility, in Preston New Road,Mereside opened in March this year but is already full.

A trust insider told The Gazette that in some cases managers in the county are having to spend up to £800 a night to secure a bed for a patient. Staff at The Orchard, Lancaster, also had to convert a men’s lounge into a temporary bedroom. With claims patients had to ask to use the toilet because it the nearest facility was in another part of the hospital.

Keith Dibble, interim deputy network director for the Adult Mental Health Network at LCFT said the situation was “regrettable”.

He said: “We can confirm that we have used contingency facilities to manage patients in the short term, this has included placing sleeping facilities in lounges however this has ceased in the last month.

“The trust has experienced a high level of demand over a period of some months, and the normal down turn over the summer has not happened this year.

“Also, due to the complexity of patients in our beds, discharge rates have reduced, and therefore we have had to commission private beds when we reach capacity in our own facilities and in some cases these beds are outside of Lancashire.

“This is clearly regrettable, but does reflect a national shortage of mental health beds.”

Mr Dibble said the average cost of providing private beds per person is £500 per night, but can vary.

He added: “We are looking at a number of initiatives to help reduce the pressure on beds, such as the opening of a clinical decision unit, a step down supported facility in Blackpool and the development of community based Acute Therapy Service.

“We are working with our commissioners to undertake an exercise to identify those people who would not need to be in an in-patient unit if other services were available and we will be working together once we have the results of that exercise to consider other alternatives to admission.”