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BMA finds 70% of children with mental health issues treated out of area

A total of seven out of 10 children with mental health issues were admitted to hospitals outside of their local area last year, the BMA has revealed.

To coincide with Mental Health Awareness Week, figures obtained by the organisation found that 69% of children and adolescent admissions were classed as ‘out of area’ (OOA) in 2016-17 – which is a 12-percentage-point rise from last year.

The problem was found to be worst in the south west, as young patients treated OOA went up by 106% – and in Yorkshire and Humber the number of admissions went up by 92%.

The news follows the BMA slamming “wholly unacceptable” levels of mental health underfunding back in February.

Its community care committee chair, Dr Gary Wannan, said: “These figures show, alarmingly, that well over half of patients are being placed out of area at a time when they are at their most vulnerable.

“NHS England has promised action on this and we need to have a very clear plan about how it will roll this out to improve this situation for young people and their families.”

Wannan added that it was an “incredible wrench” for children to have to leave their home and be based far away, and was sure to worsen existing mental health issues.

“In some areas, we have seen the rate of investment improve so patients don't have to be treated so far from home; in other areas, patients haven't been so fortunate,” he continued.

“NHS England must ensure that, especially in these areas, the money gets through to local community teams so they can make a real difference to the lives of children, young people and their families.”

The call also comes in the same week that children’s charity Barnardo’s called on the next government to extend the health system’s current targets for children’s mental health.

NHS Confederation also released its Manifesto for Better Mental Health last week, which outlined the key priorities that the government must look to address to improve the state of care after the general election.

And as part of an exclusive investigation, NHE also revealed this week that two-thirds of mental health trusts in England recorded more complaints last year that it had in 2011-12.

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