Standards must be better for mental health patients, MP insists

It's "unacceptable" that some mental health patients are being forced to travel out of their local areas for NHS treatment, one MP has claimed.

Health minister Norman Lamb said that out-of-area treatment should only be seen as a last resort, after a BBC study found that the number of patients traveling to find emergency care had grown significantly in the space of two years.

According to, the figure more than doubled between 2011-12 and 2013-14, growing from 1,301 to 3,024. Responding to the findings, Mr Lamb said that he is determined to improve care standards in the NHS.

The study was compiled using data from 30 mental health trusts spread across England, reports. One of the groups said that the shortage of hospital beds had led it to spend around £345,000 on arranging accommodation for patients in 2013.

Mark Winstanley from Rethink Mental Illness added: "Anyone going through a mental health crisis should expect to get help in a therapeutic environment where they can get better.

"The last thing they need is to be shunted to a hospital hundreds of miles away or, even worse, left to fend for themselves in a bed and breakfast."

In terms of individual areas, Sussex and Kent have been the worst-affected. In Kent, £5 million was spent on sending 334 patients to other counties for treatment in 2013; only 20 people were moved during the previous year.