Thousands of Scottish Patients Being Sent Far Afield for Mental Health Treatment

New figures acquired by the Scottish Liberal Democrats suggests that thousands of patients are being obliged to seek mental health treatment outside of their specific board areas.

Almost 1,500 adults were sent to another area in 2014-15 as an outpatient or day patient.

The data has been acquired and released following a Freedom of Information request, with the Lib Dems suggesting that there is something of a struggle to cope with mental health demand in Scotland.

Responding to the accusations of the Liberal Democrats, the government in Scotland stated that mental health is an absolute priority.

In addition to the number of adults who are being refused appropriate treatment in the region, figures also indicated that minors were being treated further afield than is ideal as well.

The figures suggested that more than 150 children under 18 were also sent outside their area last year.

Commenting on the data that was acquired by the Liberal Democrats, Jim Hume, health spokesman for the Scottish Liberal Democrats, commented that there are clearly major problems for mental health services in Scotland.

“Whilst there are sometimes good reasons behind why a patient is sent out of their health board for treatment, it’s clear that mental health units across the country are struggling to cope with demand on their services. It is welcome to see that the number of under 18-year-olds receiving mental health treatment as inpatients outside their health board of residence dropped last year. But there are still far too many young people having to travel away from home for treatment.”

Yet the Scottish government responded to these accusations by pointing out that it had significantly invested in the NHS system in this area.

Mental Health Minister Jamie Hepburn outlined some of the financial provisions made by the Scottish government towards mental health.

“Last month’s budget included an extra £50m for mental health over the next five years – increasing the mental health fund from £100m to £150m to extend capacity, improve access to services and promote innovation and new ways of treating people.”

Hepburn was also of the opinion that the rising demand for mental health services must be taken into consideration when assessing the data collated by the Liberal Democrats.

“Demand for services is increasing significantly. The number of people seen by child and adolescent mental health services has risen by 27% in the last year – more than 900 extra patients in the quarter ending September 2015.”

Hepburn also defended the decision-making process that leads to people being treated for mental health issues outside of the immediate region.

“On occasion people will be treated outside their board areas. Care and support is provided in the most appropriate environment, regardless of board boundaries. In some cases it can be appropriate for a patient to travel outside their health board area where specialist or urgent care is required. Such circumstances are kept to a minimum and always dictated by clinical need and benefit to the patient.”

 

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