THE number of patients travelling out of Sussex for emergency mental health treatment has rocketed.
Figures show 227 seriously ill people had to be transferred out of the county |in the last year because there was no |suitable place for them closer to |home.
It is a sharp rise on the 28 patients referred elsewhere between April 2011 and March 2012 and the 90 referred in the same period for 2012 to 2013.
The details, released by the Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, show the cost of referrals out of the area rose from £83,000 to more than £1.1m over the same period.
The rise is part of a national change of more patients having to be transported long distances to get the treatment they need.
The situation has been branded scandalous by charities, who say more investment into mental health services is needed to ensure the right help is available locally.
The increase is said to be due to a rising demand for mental health services at a time when cuts are being made to community services.
Health bosses say people who rely on lower levels of support to maintain their lives are more likely to develop more serious problems if that help is lost.
It also means those having to go into hospital are often more unwell than before and end up staying in longer, putting extra pressure on beds.
A trust spokeswoman said: “As a trust we know that if people need to be in hospital with a mental health condition, the best thing for them is to be there for as short a time as possible and as close to home as they can be.
“We always do our very best to make sure that happens.
“Locally we are working with partners in local authorities, housing, social care, and commissioners and policy makers to try and make the whole system work better.
“However this is a national issue which affects mental health services across the country.
“It is not a ‘beds’ issue, it is about |providing people with accessible, high quality and compassionate care in the right place and at the right time for them and that is not necessarily in a hospital bed.”
Paul Farmer, chief executive at the charity Mind, said: “It is a disgrace that people with mental health problems are being sent miles away from family and friends or being accommodated in inappropriate settings when they are acutely unwell.
“This is the latest in a long line of clear signals that, at least in some parts of the country, NHS mental health services are in crisis.”