Up to £800 a night is being spent on private beds for mental health patients in Lancashire as care providers struggle to cope with a huge increase in demand.
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.
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 state-of-the-art mental health facility which opened near Blackpool in March this year, is also at full capacity. A trust insider told the Lancaster Guardian that in some cases managers are having to spend up to £800 a night to secure a bed for a patient. Staff at The Orchard, in Pathfinders Drive, Lancaster, also had to convert a men’s lounge into a temporary bedroom.
The patients then had to ask permission every time they needed the toilet as a member of staff had to unlock a door to use the toilet elsewhere in the hospital, according to other sources.
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, which will vary depending on the providers used.
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.”