The Care Quality Commission has issued a warning regarding the West Midlands region.
It seems that the risk of a patient taking their life is disproportionately high in this area due to a shortage of acute beds.
A patient of Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health Foundation Trust had died back in November from an “intentional overdose” while under the care of a home treatment team, providing a chilling preface to this latest report.
And information provided by coroners suggests that this death could have been avoided had hospital admission taken place at an earlier date.
In its response to Birmingham’s chief coroner, the CQC outlined problems in the West Midlands region.
“There remains a shortage of acute beds in this trust and in other mental health trusts in this region. This shortage will continue to impact the most vulnerable people in the community. The provision of acute mental health beds rests with the trust and with the clinical commissioning groups. Whilst this shortage continues, the risk that another person will take his or her life remains high.”
The letter added that Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health FT has taken action to reduce risk through the creation of an “urgent care assessment team” and the use of “consultant psychiatrists to provide medical review”.
In November, Birmingham’s chief coroner Louise Hunt said: “The availability of acute mental health beds means the most vulnerable people are being cared for in the community with limited resources or care.”
Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health FT is currently undergoing a review of the non-registered staff working within this crisis team in an attempt to improve procedures in that region.
The regulator informed the trust that it is “currently considering whether enforcement action is required at this stage”.
Trust chief executive John Short responded to the news, attempting to put the problems into context, while also outlining measures being taken.
“The availability of acute mental health inpatient beds remains a national issue across the NHS in England and we are working collaboratively with trusts across the region and nationally to try and accommodate demand. As acknowledged by the CQC in its response to the coroner, notwithstanding this national issue our trust has taken action to reduce the risk to vulnerable people in the community by the creation of an urgent care assessment team and the availability of consultant psychiatrists to provide medical review.”
Barbara King, Birmingham CrossCity Clinical Commissioning Group’s accountable officer, insisted that close collaboration would be undertaken in order to improve procedures in the region.
“We continue to work very closely with our mental health providers, to assure inpatient capacity and patient flow. Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health FT are working collaboratively to accommodate demand and are developing new models of care, through the MERIT vanguard.”