VULNERABLE mental health patients are still being sent hundreds of miles for treatment – at a cost of £1,957,579 to the NHS a year.

Dorset HealthCare admitted in the last year it has sent 96 psychiatric patients across the country due to a lack of beds in Dorset.

The Daily Echo first revealed the extent of the bed crisis in 2014 when a psychiatric hospital in Poole had no intensive care beds for women and the service spent £1.8 million in a year sending 60 patients out of county for treatment. In 2015/16 the trust paid £2.8 million to providers elsewhere.

A public consultation into Dorset’s mental health review is currently underway and residents are being urged to have their say before the deadline on Friday, March 31.

Health bosses at Dorset CCG pledge less patients will be sent away under its proposals which will mean the closure of the Linden Unit, a 15 bed unit at Westhaven Hospital in Weymouth, to increase the number of beds at St Ann’s from 67 to 94 with an additional four beds at Forston Clinic near Dorchester.

Patients suffering mental health related conditions such as ongoing or recurrent psychosis, depression, self-harm behaviours as well as personality, bi-polar and post-traumatic stress disorders have been sent as far as 350 miles away in County Durham for care between 1 March 2016 and February 28.

The 20 other locations where beds were found were London, North Yorkshire, Somerset, Hertfordshire, Manchester, Staffordshire and Northampton.

Mental health campaigners branded the set-up 'distressing' for vulnerable patients.

Dr Andrew Mayers, principal academic at Bournemouth University and patron of Dorset Mind, said: “It is essential that people get local care for mental health problems.

“In some cases, patients are being sent hundreds of miles away to get that care. This makes it very difficult for friends and family to visit because of financial and other constraints. It is also more distressing for that patient. A mental health facility can be overwhelming enough for a patient, especially if this the first experience of acute mental illness, without being away from the familiarity and support that they would get in their own community.”

A spokesman for Dorset HealthCare insisted out of area beds are used only as a ‘last resort’ when all local bed capacity has been exhausted or when an individual has very complex needs and requires a specialist bed that is not available within Dorset.

He said: “The principle is to ensure that the nearest suitable out-of-area location will be sourced at every opportunity.

"We strive to minimise any disruption to people’s care and work closely with out-of-area providers to ensure it is the least restrictive option available.

“We appreciate that placing people far from home can make it difficult for families and local health services to remain in contact with them. We provide support to families and have an experienced discharge coordinator who visits all placements to ensure that there is continuity with local services and that people are returned to the local area as soon as possible.

“After increasing our local bed capacity we have reduced the number of people being placed out of the local area. Since opening our PICU service for women at St Ann’s Hospital, Poole, in January this year we successfully managed to repatriate all female patients who were using out of area beds.”

To have your say in the mental health review, go to or call 01202 541946


Where patients were sent in the past year?

• Beckton, London

• Blackheath, London

• Harrogate, North Yorkshire

• Kewstoke, Somerset

• Stevenage, Hertfordshire

• Stourbridge, Worcestershire

• Potters Bar, Hertfordshire

• Roehampton, London

• Royston, Hertfordshire

• Hassocks, West Sussex

• Manchester

• Bristol

• Cheadle, Staffordshire

• Durham

• Middleton St George, County Durham

• Nottingham

• Southampton, Hampshire

• Thornford Park, Thatcham, Berkshire

• Ticehurst, East Sussex

• Woking, Surrey

• Northampton