Mental health patients are being ‘treated as second-class citizens’

Patients are being sent to private mental health hospitals often hundreds of miles from home.

Ian Snug
25 June 2019
Cutbacks in mental health

Five million people are reliant entirely on out-of-area private sector provision.

An investigation by the British Medical Association (BMA) has revealed a widespread practice of NHS patients with serious mental health issues being sent to private mental health hospitals often hundreds of miles from home.


The doctor union has criticised this move as they claim it isolates patients from family members and means there is no NHS doctor overseeing their treatment.

Research by the BMA’s Doctor magazine found NHS mental health rehabilitation wards have all but disappeared from 18 Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG) and NHS trusts in England, leaving five million people in those areas reliant entirely on out-of-area private sector provision.

Figures by the union reveal a £21m increased spend by the NHS on the private sector between 2016/17 and 2018 but an increase of just £2m for NHS providers.

No place in mental health care.

Commenting on the findings, the BMA lead for mental health, psychiatrist, Dr Andrew Molodynski, said:


“This practice goes against the very nature of rehabilitation which should be a transitional process, helping to reintegrate a patient back into society.

“As seen in the cases of Whorlton Hall and Winterbourne, the ‘cut-off’ nature of these institutions can be a breeding ground for the development of harsh and abusive cultures. This has no place in modern mental healthcare.”

“As well as the debilitating impact on the patient, the eye-watering sums being spent on out-of-area private providers is a clear sign that the Government must get a grip on this worrying practice. There are no positives here for patients, families, care services, or the public purse- quite the opposite. We need to ensure that care is available closer to home to give patients the best possible chance of recovery and reintegration.”

Safe, therapeutic environments.

Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind, said: “Rehabilitation services play a vital role in helping people to return to living more independently in their communities. They help people get out of cycles of repeat A&E visits and acute inpatient admissions – which is better for them and for the health service. We know good care is possible and that there are places where people are having their needs met in appropriate settings. This should be the case everywhere.


“The lack of NHS rehabilitation services in some areas is further evidence of the need for significant investment to improve the state of the buildings where people receive care – so that wards provide safe, therapeutic environments for people.

“The NHS has rightly committed to improve mental health services and this must include ensuring that people can get the treatment they need, when they need it and close to home.”

Treated as second-class citizens.

Responding to a new investigation by the BMA into out of area mental health placements, RCN Professional Lead for Mental Health Catherine Gamble said:

“The NHS still hasn’t got to the point where people with mental health problems get the same access to care. They still await the same standards of care as people trying to get treatment for a physical health problem.

“At present, people with serious mental illness risk being treated as second-class citizens by the health service. We won’t close this gap until action replaces rhetoric.


“Our members working in mental health understand that their patients deserve better than the situations outlined in this investigation in which people are kept far from home, friends and family.

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