By Michael Buchanan
The mental health service in England is in crisis and unsafe, says one of the country’s leading psychiatrists.
Dr Martin Baggaley, medical director of the South London and Maudsley NHS Trust, spoke out as an investigation by BBC News and Community Care magazine reveals more than 1,500 mental health beds have closed in recent years.
Many trusts have all their beds filled.
Freedom of Information requests were sent to 53 of England’s 58 mental health trusts, by BBC News and Community Care, and 46 trusts replied.
The figures show that a minimum of 1,711 mental health beds have been closed since April 2011, including 277 between April and August 2013.
This represents a 9% reduction in the total number of mental health beds – 18,924 – available in 2011/12.
On the morning Dr Baggaley spoke to the BBC, he said a severely distressed patient had been transferred from Croydon to Hertfordshire as there were no beds in London.
He has 50 patients in beds outside his trust, some as far away as Somerset.
He said: “We are in a real crisis at the moment. I think currently the system is inefficient, unsafe.
“We’re certainly feeling it on the front line, it’s very pressured, and we spend a lot of our time struggling to find beds, sending people across the country which is really not what I want to do.”