Norfolk and Suffolk mental health trust spent £600,000 on out-of-area beds

The NSFT based at Hellesdon Hospital
Image caption The Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust is based at Hellesdon Hospital on the outskirts of Norwich

Money spent on sending Norfolk and Suffolk mental health patients to other parts of England almost tripled last month to £600,000, new figures show.

In November the BBC revealed that up to 50 patients were being sent to out-of-area beds.

Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) figures show between December 2013 and September 2014 the average expenditure was about £200,000.

The trust said the number outside the counties had been cut to 24.

Michael Scott, chief executive at the NSFT, said the increase in out-of-area beds was partly due to a major reorganisation of services.

That saw social workers previously employed by the trust transferred to Norfolk County Council.

Image caption Michael Scott, NSFT chief executive, wants parity in mental health trust and mainstream hospitals funding

At the same time there was a "marked increase in demand" for beds, he said.

"The figure has steadily decreased to 24 since. The opening a new 12-bed assessment ward in February will reduce the number of out of area placements even further," said Mr Scott.

A spokesman for the Campaign to Save Mental Health Services in Norfolk and Suffolk said: "NSFT and the local clinical commissioning groups need to properly fund both inpatient beds and community teams until there is a decent mental health service in Norfolk and Suffolk.

"The human and financial cost of failing to do so is unsustainable."

In November, Mr Scott told the BBC that the trust had been "dramatically underfunded" by £30m over four years.

While mainstream hospital funding is based on the number of patients, mental health receives a block grant unrelated to the number of users.

This has seen the budgets of the mainstream hospitals in Norfolk and Suffolk rise by 15% since 2010, while mental health service funding, despite a 4.4% increase in users, has fallen by 3%.

The NSFT has to make £40m of cuts by 2018 and this year is facing an overspend of more than £2m.

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