How much does it cost to be detained on a psychiatric ward and ‘treated’?

There has been a lot of attention on the National Health Service (NHS) recently, with headlines proclaiming an ‘NHS crisis.’

For anyone listening to the news reports, the crisis revolves around the lack of funding in the NHS. A report from the Public Accounts Committee warned that the social care system was overwhelmed by demand, amid ‘extreme pressures on funding.’

As this issue appears to be a continual source of discontent for Members of Parliament as well as members of the public, it’s worth knowing how much various aspects of NHS care actually cost.

Since CCHR investigates matters relating to mental health services, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests were made to a selection of psychiatric hospitals in south London to find out the cost of involuntarily detaining someone under the Mental Health Act (MHA).

The South West London and St George’s Mental Health NHS Trust responded, informing CCHR that the single price per day for inpatients on adult acute wards was £429. This applies across the board including patients on section.

The South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust also responded. It informed CCHR that “The unit cost per overnight bed day for our inpatient wards is £404.11.” For the purposes of this exercise, the figure of £429 is going to be used to demonstrate costs.

When you do the maths using this figure, the weekly cost of enforced detention in a hospital run by the Trust is £3,003. If that detention is under Section 3 of the MHA, which means you may be detained for up to 6 months, that 26 week cost comes to £78,078.  The maths are complete when the figure is multiplied by the number of beds on a psychiatric ward.

Springfield Hospital is one of the hospitals run by the South West London and St George’s Mental Health NHS Trust. On their website, it refers to Ward 3 as a 20 bed adult mixed sex acute mental health ward, providing assessment and treatment for individuals experiencing mental health conditions.

If Ward 3 is full, and each person is involuntarily detained for 6 months, the cost to the UK taxpayer would be £1,561,560. Ward 2 at the hospital has 18 beds which comes to £1,405,404 if running at full capacity. The total cost then, for 38 people to be detained for 6 months, is £2,966,964. And that’s just for two wards.

While the costs include a lot of personnel including security guards that go along with the running of these types of facilities, the telling factor are the results. There is a ‘revolving door’ issue concerning mental health patients, which means people are ‘treated,’ released back into the community, but are then readmitted to a psychiatric ward for more ‘treatment,’ as if stuck in a revolving door. That is not a result. That is a failure on behalf of those treating the person at huge cost to the taxpayer.

Also realise that the Care Quality Commission is to do an investigate as mental health detentions have hit a 10-year high. According to a Guardian article, patients were detained in England for treatment under the provisions of the Mental Health Act 63,622 times in the year to April 2016.

If mental health treatment was beneficial and worked, it could be expected that the number of detentions would go down. That’s not the case.

You as a taxpayer can highlight this problem. Share this data, take it to your MP, tell people that you know how much it costs to detain someone who is experiencing mental troubles, but who does not recover, who may be detained again, and who enters the revolving door of the mental health system.

This must be highlighted to those who can make changes, so that the NHS does not haemorrhage more taxpayers money in a failing mental health system.

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