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The Royal College of Psychiatrists Improving the lives of people with mental illness

PCTs 'wasting millions' on out-of-area treatments, reveals RCPsych

Embargoed until 14 April 2010

An investigation by Royal College of Psychiatrists reveals that primary care trusts (PCTs) in England are wasting hundreds of millions of pounds each year on treating people with severe mental health problems many miles away from their own homes.

The results of the investigation are published exclusively today (14 April 2010) in the Society Guardian.

Psychiatric rehabilitation services provide long-term care, over months or even years, for people with severe and complex mental health problems such as schizophrenia. However, disinvestment in NHS Rehabilitation Services in recent years has meant growing numbers of people are being sent to so-called ‘out-of-area treatments’ – often provided by the independent sector.

The College issued a Freedom of Information Act request to all primary care trusts and local authorities in England, asking about their spending on OATs. Analysis of the responses shows:

  • Around £300m is spent by PCTs and local authorities every year on OATs.
  • OATs are on average 66% more expensive than local treatments.
  • 22% of all people receiving rehabilitation services are placed outside their local area.

Dr Helen Killaspy, chair of the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ Faculty of Rehabilitation and Social Psychiatry, said: “Our investigation shows that hundreds of millions of pounds are being wasted each year on out-of-area treatments. Not only does this not make economic sense, but people may be taken away from their families and communities for no good reason. Moving people back into the care of local services would help people regain independent living skills as well as saving money.”

The Faculty of Rehabilitation and Social Psychiatry has found examples of good practice where PCTs have moved rehabilitation services closer to home. For example, Islington PCT managed to save £1m a year by moving 17 people in OATs back to independent and supported living arrangements within Islington.

Dr Killaspy added: "In recent years, there has been a rapid and uncontrolled rise in independent sector provision of OATs. But the degree to which the out-of-area treatments market has grown does not match clinical need, and a large proportion of the money currently spent on such placements could be re-invested locally. The Royal College of Psychiatrists calls on the government to ensure all PCTs and local authorities are obliged to review their policies on OATs.”

The Faculty has produced a template for rehabilitation services, Enabling Recovery for People with Complex Mental Health Needs, which sets out a model for the provision of rehabilitation services in the future. The College has sent a copy of this template to all PCTs in England.

For further information, please contact:
Sarah Nevins
Press & Social Media Officer
Telephone: 020 3701 2543
Claire McLoughlin
Media & Communications Manager 
Telephone: 020 3701 2544
Out of hours contact number: 07860 755896


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