Sky News has reported that parents whose children have been sectioned under the Mental Health Act are taking legal action to get their children treated closer to home.
Shockingly, 165 children with learning disabilities needed inpatient care and 42% of those were sent to hospitals more than 60 miles from home. For example, Eddie Hanlon, 16 (who has autism, bipolar and epilepsy) has spent the last two years in a secure unit in Newcastle, 300 miles from his Bristol home. Disturbingly, his mother Adele gets to see him just once a month and has not even been able to see his bedroom. She stated "It's like having a child taken away from you. It's like being punished, you feel hopeless.” And without help and a lack of support for children and parents in such situations, Adele has been forced to turn to an online petition to try and get her son out of the hospital which has more than 64,000 signatures.
Part of the issue that has led to such drastic measures is because in the UK there are only 1,442 beds available for children with mental health issues, with London and the North West having most spaces. However, the South West has just 54 beds, the lowest per head of the population.
As Stephen Dalton from the NHS Confederation's Mental Health Network said: "The problem is that because of a postcode lottery of where services are located, where money is invested, even when children get access to services some of them can be hundreds of miles from home." For further information on the underfunding of the mental health sector, please read our previous article that covered this issue.
Furthermore, Liberal Democrat health spokesman Norman Lamb, whose eldest son suffered mental health problems, told Sky News: "We, surely in this day of age in a civilised country, need to make sure that some very vulnerable children get help when they need it. It just seems to me that there is a discrimination at the heart of our NHS. "If you have a physical health problem, you get help, you have a right to access treatment on time but if you have a mental health problem, you can wait for months on end. And for children whose whole life can be affected by this, it is, in my view, scandalous.” For the full report, read here.