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Norfolk and Suffolk have lost a quarter of mental health beds

Photo: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

Photo: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

Suffolk and Norfolk have lost a quarter of all mental health beds in four years - faster than the national average.

While England has seen the number of mental health beds fall by 3,500 since 2012, a drop of 16%, the Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust (NSFT), which provides the majority of mental health services in the region, has cut 25% of beds in the same period - 139.

The NHS figures showed North Essex Partnership has lost 67 beds, a fall of 17.5%.

A spokesman for the Essex trust said it was “constantly working to improve patient care”.

A spokesman for the NSFT said the majority of its bed closures were within older people’s services and they were replaced by community services.

“Not all people in mental health crisis need to be, or should be, admitted to a bed,” an NSFT spokesman said. “Often the best outcome for a patient is achieved when they can remain within their own home.”

But a lack of beds means the NSFT has to send mental health patients hundred of miles away for treatment, something this newspaper has been highlighting for years through out Mental Health Watch campaign.

In January 2014, NSFT bosses said they would stop sending patients out of the area for treatment within four months.

Four years on and the numbers have rocketed, reaching 606 bed days in March - up from 26 in April last year. Almost all of those patients are from Norfolk rather than Suffolk.

It aims to get rid of all out of area placements by March 2018.

The NSFT spokesman said: “We fully recognise the distress this can cause some patients and we simply do not want to send them away from our local services.”

A report which goes before the NSFT board of directors today states that the occupancy levels of emergency beds “remains a concern with demand for beds continuing to be high in Central Norfolk and Great Yarmouth and Waveney”.

A spokesperson for the Campaign to Save Mental Health Services in Norfolk and Suffolk said: “People have died or suffered life-changing injuries following the unavailability of local NHS beds.”

The NSFT said it now had plans to increase the number of beds it has but could not go into detail yet.

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