A PSYCHIATRIC hospital in Poole has no intensive care beds for women and routinely sends patients hundreds of miles for treatment – at a cost of more than £1.8million in the last year.

Following a Daily Echo investigation, Dorset HealthCare University Foundation Trust admitted it has just five intensive psychiatric care beds in the county, all based at St Ann’s Hospital in Canford Cliffs, and none are used for females.

In the last year, the lack of facilities resulted in patients being transferred as far away as Bradford in West Yorkshire, Cheadle in Greater Manchester and other institutions scattered across the country on 60 separate occasions.

Of the £1,875,031 paid to other care providers between September 2013 and September 2014, more than £1.4million was handed to private company Cygnet Health Care – with just 11.5 per cent of the total money spent staying in the NHS.

A parent with a daughter at St Ann’s, who is in her 80s and did not want to be named, said the service for women was ‘like something from the dark ages’, branding the facilities ‘disgusting’ and ‘unfit for a dog’.

“They only told me she would be transferred to Bradford 30 minutes before they took her away by ambulance,” she added.

“I was so upset – they told me I was hysterical and that I would not be allowed to see her before she left.

“It took six hours to take her there and left her very distressed – she was so far away from her family and we desperately wanted to be by her side.

“It was horrendous, like a nightmare. She hated being so far away.”

After complaining, she said the next time her daughter required intensive treatment, she was taken to a facility in London.

However, accompanied by her husband, also in his 80s, she said travelling around the city had proved difficult and cost £150 for the pair in train and taxi fares.

Asked by the Echo how much each ambulance journey to make such a transfer costs, a spokesman for Dorset Healthcare said it ‘varies’ and the number of staff used to accompany patients is ‘determined by a full risk assessment’.

He added that such a transfer is ‘always a last resort’.

  • We want to hear from the families of mental health patients in Dorset who are unhappy with the care provided. If you or a family member has been directly affected, please call the newsdesk on 01202 411293.

Statement from Dorset HealthCare

Eugine Yafele, lead director for mental health at Dorset HealthCare, said: “We agree it is unacceptable that there are currently no psychiatric intensive care beds available for women in Dorset.

“We are already taking steps to change this and are working towards finalising detailed plans by Christmas to have beds in Dorset as soon as possible.

“Transferring someone away from their home when they are unwell is always a last resort after all local options for care have been exhausted.

“If we send someone out of the county, we will always try to find an available bed as close to Dorset as possible and if a person is out of the area we stay closely involved in their care with the priority to bring them back as soon as clinically possible.

“We have recognised that improvements are needed in some of our mental health inpatient services.

“We have already agreed to invest several million pounds in significant improvements to a number of the facilities at St Ann’s hospital, including the inpatient female ward, which will greatly improve the experience and outcomes of those we support. This investment and commitment to continued improvement and upgrading follows on from the improvements for patients already made with the brand new buildings opened at St Ann’s hospital in October 2013.”

‘Matter of inequality’ says MP

THE non-existence of beds for women suffering with serious mental illness in Dorset is a ‘matter of inequality’, according to an MP.

Annette Brooke, MP for North Poole and Mid Dorset, raised the issue in parliament last month after being contacted by two affected families and met with health minister Norman Lamb to discuss increased funding.

She said the situation is ‘appalling’ and extra money is needed urgently.

“It is shocking, because these are young ladies and they need the support of their families,” she added.

“Mental healthcare in this country has been grossly underfunded for years. It is a matter of speaking up – we have got to have our own provision in Dorset.”

She said Mr Lamb has now written to Dorset HealthCare to address the issues.

She added that after meeting with the trust’s management, she was confident there was a ‘real determination to improve’.

Conor Burns, MP for Bournemouth West, also called for this ‘distressing’ situation to be put to an end.

He added: “Mental health care has long been the poor relation in the NHS – it is the Cinderella service.

“It is something that, other than cancer, affects more families than any other illness.

“It is distressing enough to have a close family member suffering with mental illness, but for them to then be taken away to Bradford and other parts of the country, and to not be able to see their loved ones, makes it even more distressing.

“It is something that is not just economically bad, it is emotionally damaging too.”

Breakdown of money paid

Money paid to external providers (September 2013 - September 2014)


Cygnet Health Care Beckton, London - £555,116

Blackheath, London - £247,151

Bradford, Yorkshire - £167,697

Cheadle, Greater Manchester - £29,222

Kewstoke, Somerset - £330,746

Unspecified- £111,059

Priory Group

Royal Cheadle, Greater Manchester - £28,518

Pankhurst Unit at Royal Cheadle, Greater Manchester - £63,150

Unspecified - £81,679

Other non-NHS providers

The Dene, West Sussex - £2,220

St Andrew’s Healthcare, Northamptonshire - £40,074

Mile End Hospital, London - £644

Non-NHS total: £1,657,275

NHS hospitals

Tower Hamlets NHS Trust, London - £204,554

East London Trust, London - £13,202 NHS total: £217,756 Grand total: £1,875,031