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Mental health trust boss vows to take action to ease bed shortage
THE BOSS of a North-East NHS trust has vowed to take action to meet the growing demand for adult mental health beds in the region.
Martin Barkley, chief executive of the Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation, said he planned "a couple more initiatives" to try to ease sustained pressure on beds.
But he insisted that nobody who needed hospital admission has been turned away by his trust - despite a drop in the number of the trust's adult beds in the last five years.
He acknowledged that the demand for inpatient beds had increased and showed no sign of reducing and said the fall-out from the sustained economic downturn could be partially to blame.
The trust boss was responding to a national survey by BBC News and Community Care magazine which revealed that more than 1,500 mental health beds have closed since 2008.
However, during the same period, the NHS has invested heavily in community-based services designed to support patients in their own homes.
The Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys Trust, which runs mental health services from County Durham down to Whitby, released figures which showed that the number of adult mental health beds in the trust had declined from 331 in 2008 down to 235 this year - a reduction of 96 inpatient beds.
Further north, the Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Trust has also cut its inpatient beds by 157 in the same period.
The national situation led to leading psychiatrist Dr Martin Baggaley, medical director of the South London and Maudsley NHS Trust, to declare that the mental health system was "in crisis."
Mr Barkley said: "We have never not admitted somebody who needs admission to hospital but for the last 18 months there has been bed pressures and the problem is still as significant today as it was a year ago."
"Only last week I got a complaint from a family that someone in Richmondshire had to be admitted in Middlesbrough. That is a long round trip for relatives and we are trying to do something about it. It is completely unacceptable."
He added: "We have noticed there has been an increase in referrals. I think the long-term impact of the economic downturn is beginning to manifest itself in terms of mental health problems."
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