A review of coroners’ reports and NHS trust papers with the journal Community Care, has revealed that, since 2012, seven mental health patients have killed themselves in England after being told that no hospital beds were available to them. Another patient denied a bed later killed his mother.
More than 2,100 mental beds have been cut in England since 2011. The review also revealed that a chief executive of a mental health trust wrote to NHS England in frustration after a senior official came to inform her that no mental health beds in London were available in either the private sector or through the NHS.
Natalie Churney, associate in the London clinical negligence team at Penningtons Manches, said: “This does raise concerns as to why this situation was not investigated and no action plan was implemented. Unless there is a clear understanding about the lack of availability of beds for mentally ill patients and the resources to assist us, more lives will be lost.
“Trusts can exceed 100% bed occupation as they fill beds temporarily freed-up when patients are allowed out for a short period of time. But the risk of filling those beds is that there will not be a bed available if a patient on leave has a relapse. If a patient needs an admission to a mental health bed, their need is extremely high.”