THE number of Hampshire mental health patients sent miles away from home for treatment has dropped.

Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust has confirmed that currently only three Hampshire patients are being treated in facilities not owned by the trust.

The news comes as last year it was revealed that between April 2018 and April 2019 Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust placed mental health patients in hospitals not run by the trust on 698 occasions, racking up a bill of £12.6m.

But Dr Karl Marlowe, Chief Medical Officer at the trust, said the so-called Out of Area Placements (OAPs) have dropped by 95%.

He said: “At the end of October 2019 we had 68 people in spot purchased out of area placements – currently we have 3 (a reduction of 95%).  Not only was this great for patients, allowing them to focus on their recovery close to their family and friends, but it also meant we were making better use of our finite resources. With the coronavirus pandemic affecting almost every part of the NHS, including mental health services, we have worked hard to maintain the good work we had done.”

Last year the trust announced new plans to tackle OAPs.

As reported, hospital beds are now managed by local teams in North and Mid Hampshire, South West Hampshire, East Hampshire and Southampton,  rather than one central team across the county.

Dr Karl Marlowe added: “The support of family, friends and local community is a key part of recovery from mental health crisis. But many patients across the country have been cared for in hospitals many miles from their home. This is a serious issue for the NHS and in Hampshire, Southern Health has made the elimination of these ‘out of area placements’ (OAPs) one of our key priorities.”

He said to be pleased with the recent achievements.

But he added: “But there is still much we can do. Our aim is to have the right number and type of beds available for the population of Hampshire, alongside continuing to invest in new ideas and projects to so more people can remain in the community alongside their family and friends without needing to go to hospital.”