Mental health patients stranded in units for years

Mental health patients stranded in units for years

Image captionToni was delayed in an acute unit for six months

Mental health patients across the UK are spending years stranded in acute units awaiting discharge, figures show.

Over the past two years, at least 91 patients have waited more than a year to be discharged, with at least seven patients waiting more than two years.

At least 320 patients had to wait at least 100 days to be discharged, BBC Freedom of Information requests show.

Experts say a lack of suitable accommodation and wrangling over budgets are to blame for the delays.

‘I felt frustrated’

Toni Adeniyi, 32, has spent 15 years as a mental health inpatient, suffering from unstable emotional personality disorder, and schizoaffective disorder.

“At times I wasn’t well, I used to attack people, I wasn’t taking my medication properly. I just wasn’t allowed off the unit,” she said.

However, when Toni was ready to be released, she was stuck on an acute ward for another six months.

“I think it was due to funding, and paperwork. It was a bit frustrating,” she said.

“I used to see other people leaving before me, and I would think, ‘I’ve been ready a long time, and I’m more equipped’, but they seemed to get out quicker.”

Eventually, she was placed in mental health charity Together’s supported step-down unit in Wellingborough, which helped her adjust to life outside hospital.

Image captionToni hopes to gain more independence by moving to a self-contained flat at the unit

She explained that the transition to the unit, and the freedom to do little things she couldn’t do while on a ward, made all the difference.

“It’s doing my own cooking, doing things I want to do.

“I can have things in my room like mirrors, razors, glass and aerosols, because you are not allowed that in hospital,” she said.

Three year delays

In England, the longest delay recorded was 1,159 days, for a 62-year-old patient at Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust.

In Scotland, the longest delay recorded was 1,200 days, at NHS Lothian.

In Wales, Hywel Dda health board saw a delay of 975 days, while in Northern Ireland, a 76-year-old patient was delayed for 1,235 days at the Southern Health and Social Care Trust.

Due to differences in how the data is recorded, direct comparisons between delays in each nation are not possible.