Hundreds of mental health patients in Scotland have been transferred to England and Wales for treatment over the last five years, new figures have revealed.
Figures obtained by the Scottish Conservatives, following Freedom of Information requests to health boards, revealed that 150 patients have been forced to travel hundreds of miles for treatment.
The longest distance travelled by a patient came in at 600 miles, from Inverness to London, while another Highland patient suffering from an eating disorder was transferred 552 miles as “no beds were available in Scotland”.
Other reasons for the transfers included the required treatment not being available locally, lack of beds and inappropriate facilities at local hospitals.
The total cost to health boards of transferring mental health patients to England and Wales between 2017/18 and 2021/22 was more than £15m.
It comes after STV News revealed that mental health patients were waiting an average of nearly two years for treatment in parts of the Highlands.
Shadow minister for mental wellbeing Sue Webber branded the figures “unacceptable” and called on more support for patients in Scotland.
She said: “This deeply alarming research highlights the intolerable reality facing many vulnerable patients in Scotland.
“Travelling long distances for any medical treatment is far from satisfactory, but for patients with complex psychiatric or psychological issues, it is actively detrimental to their mental wellbeing and chances of recovery.
“It’s unacceptable that patients at their most fragile are having to be moved hundreds of miles from home and separated from friends and family at a time when they most need the support of their loved ones.
“It’s a damning indictment of the SNP government that, on their watch, Scotland’s NHS lacks the resources to treat certain mental health conditions.
“They are letting down patients – some of them with life-threatening illnesses – and their families. And that’s before we even consider the cost implications for squeezed budgets of transferring patients far and wide.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The cross-border transfer of Scottish patients can occur for a variety of reasons, including receiving care and treatment appropriate to their needs, and individuals from other countries returning home after a period of care and treatment.
“The same reasons can also lead to patients being transferred to Scotland from other nations.
“Mental health legislation governs the cross-border transfer of patients in to and out of Scotland and requires that the patient and their family’s views are taken into account, as well as regard being given to the best interests of the patient and the risks they may pose.
“It also includes various protections including the requirement for a warrant before transfer can take place, the awareness of the Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland to any transfer that is considered urgent, and a right of appeal for patients to the Mental Health Tribunal for Scotland against the proposed transfer.”
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