Search

Mental health trust defends bed cuts despite Camden patients being sent as far away as Somerset

08:00 26 August 2014

Wendy Wallace, chief executive of Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust, defended the cuts made to beds and nurses

Wendy Wallace, chief executive of Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust, defended the cuts made to beds and nurses

Archant

A mental health trust says it has been forced to send patients as far away as Somerset because of a “rise in use of legal highs, more foreign patients and people becoming depressed due to the recession”.

Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust (CANDI) – which has made dramatic cuts to its bed and nursing levels – defended figures that show its capacity and staffing have been some of the worst hit in the country over the past three years.

It insisted it had consulted properly before carrying out the cuts, but blamed an increase in the number of patients it now has to send elsewhere on an “unexpected rise in demand for services”.

It follows a nationwide investigation into all mental health providers by medical magazine Health Service Journal (HSJ) which showed an overall reduction in the number of beds, staffing and funding in the mental health sector.

Figures obtained by the HSJ – and provided to the Ham&High – found that when compared with all 57 NHS mental health providers, CANDI was one of the worst affected.

Between 2011 and 2014, the trust had lost the second highest proportion of its beds, 19.1 per cent, and the highest proportion of its nurses, 18 per cent.

Over the same period, the number of patients being sent by the trust to be treated elsewhere jumped from 89 to 171.

With some patients sent as far away as Somerset and Stevenage, and others to private hospitals around London, these “out of area” placements can be expensive and are widely considered to be poor practice.

Wendy Wallace, chief executive of CANDI, was adamant the decision to cut beds was “right for the time it was made”, adding that the trust was “expanding care in the community”.

She said: “In 2011 we were seeing a number of our beds lying empty when government funding was falling. So at the time the decision to cut beds was right – which obviously leads to the loss of nurses tending those beds.

“But since then we’ve seen a rise in demand. Legal highs are definitely an issue, causing illnesses like psychosis. There are also more foreign nationals coming into the area and more cases of depression linked to the recession. It may be that now we do need to look at adding some more beds.”

She said that government cuts to mental health services had left “no flexibility to deal with increased demand”, adding: “There are limits as to how far we can be pushed.”

Both Camden and Islington have a disproportionately high number of residents with mental illnesses.

Those working in the sector have long complained mental health has always been “chronically underfunded” and that staff are a risk of “burnout”.

Nik Masters, a Swiss Cottage resident who was governor at CANDI for four years, says he has seen care for his mentally ill wife decline since the cuts.

He said: “My wife has not seen her service team from CANDI for three-and-a-half months.

“The nurses say its because of work pressures, so it’s through no fault of their own – it’s the cuts.

“The crisis service is also not working. I end up having to go to A&E when I need help, where the nurses aren’t trained properly to deal with mental health issues.”

Another Camden resident, who cares for his adult son and who did not want to be named, said: “We used to have a community nurse who knew our son better than we did. She got downgraded and we never heard from anyone for 18 months.”

“When I ring up the crisis service for help they often tell me they can’t help until the next day and tell me to ring 999.

“What’s going to happen to our son when my wife and I are gone?”

0 comments

Comments

Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files
Comments

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Hampstead Highgate Express visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Hampstead Highgate Express staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Hampstead Highgate Express account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

Latest News Stories

Yesterday, 12:43
The 2m-long hissing corn snake was found lurking in a recycling box outside a West Hampstead home

A resident in West Hampstead opened their front door on Monday morning to find a two metre-long snake in their recycling box.

Yesterday, 11:37
A torrent of water gushes out from underneath collapsed tarmac in Wells Rise

Residents were left wading through a torrent of water over the weekend after a huge water pipe burst, flooding the street and causing the road to collapse.

Yesterday, 16:11
Lib Dem parliamentary candidate for Hampstead & Kilburn Maajid Nawaz with Tim Farron MP campaigning outside West Hampstead tube station. Picture: Polly Hancock

Camden Council has denied accusations it is “profiteering off million pound penthouses” and going against its own policy on affordable housing after controversy over a West Hampstead development resurfaced this week.

Yesterday, 16:00

Hampstead actor Tom Conti will wander down the hill to turn on Belsize Park’s first Christmas lights.

Most read news

Up to 3,000 people took to the streets of London in vigils for Mike Brown which turned into a protest march down Oxford Street.

The NHS have introduced a new pill for those who struggle to screw the lid back on that bottle of wine.

Today the doctor has received an eight-year sentence for a string of offences.

Digital Edition

Image
Read the Hampstead & Highgate Express e-edition today E-edition