THE number of children with serious mental health problems who are being treated outside their home area has more than doubled in the South West, according to NHS figures.

The region saw the highest increase in patients treated OOA at 106 per cent, from 227 in 2015/16 to 467 in 2016/17.

An investigation by the British Medical Association (BMA) found seven out of 10 children with serious mental health problems are being treated outside their home area. Around 69 per cent of young patients were admitted to hospitals away from home in 2016/17, up from 57 per cent the year before.

BMA South West regional council chair, Dr Helena McKeown said: “It is unacceptable that in the South West, hundreds of young people with mental health issues are being forced to travel out of area to access beds for treatment as the NHS reaches breaking point.

“Alarmingly, these figures have more than doubled over the last year prompting serious cause for concern as families and patients are being unfairly inconvenienced due to a despicable lack of mental health funding.

“The government must urgently commit to investing in mental health services for young people in the region before levels of care deteriorate further.”

The figures were obtained from NHS England in a Freedom of Information request by BMA News.

An NHS England spokesman said: "Since the definition of out-of-area placements has been toughened up, year-on-year comparisons will not be accurate.

"But looking out over the next two years, we are committed to ensuring that children and young people receive care closer to home so 49,000 extra children and young people will get the care they need and we are funding 150 to 180 new CAMHS (child and adolescent mental health services) Tier 4 specialist inpatient beds in under-served parts of the country, reducing the need for patients having to travel long distances to get the right care."