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Mentally ill teen sent 275 miles to Bury hospital as no beds in Sussex
12:00pm Friday 21st February 2014 in News
A teenager with serious mental health problems was sent to a hospital 275 miles away because there were no suitable beds for them closer to home.
The patient was one of two dozen 16 and 17-year-olds from Sussex treated outside of the county in the past ten months.
The teenager, who needed specialist inpatient care urgently, was transferred the furthest, to Bury, Greater Manchester.
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The number of transfers outside of Sussex has risen over the last three years, with 13 longer-distance transfers between April 2012 and March 2013 and four the year before.
Health bosses have admitted there is a national problem around the availability of mental health beds for children as trusts deal with a rising number of referrals.
NHS England is responsible for commissioning the specialist services for the most seriously ill children with mental health problems, known as tier four.
An urgent review into how many more beds may be needed in Sussex and around the country is due to end next month.
Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust has 16 tier four beds at Chalkhill, its children's inpatient unit in Crawley.
Higher level specialist services, such as psychiatric intensive care, is not available in the county.
A NHS England spokesman said: “We recognise there is an issue around bed availability within Tier 4 child and adolescent mental health services, where we see the most seriously ill patients, which we are working hard to address.
“We want to improve services and move towards patients being treated as close to their homes as possible.”
“As part of our review we are looking at current provision, level of demand, admission criteria and areas of best practice.”
Sussex Partnership director of nursing and quality, Helen Greatorex, said:
“We work extremely hard to ensure that we care for young people with mental health problems as close to their home as possible.
“Occasionally when admission to hospital is imperative and a local bed is not available, we will admit a young person to the closest available bed and work with them and their family on returning them to our care at the earliest opportunity.
“We have noticed along with other similar trusts that the national increase in demand for specialist beds has resulted in the need to search further afield for a bed than previously has been the case.”
Sussex Partnership Trust Unison branch secretary Peter Atkinson said: “This is symptomatic of the funding issue facing mental health services.
“We are dealing with a combination of problems, including an increase in demand while at the same time having to find millions of pounds of savings.”