A HEALTH board has has defended itself after being pulled up on the amount of people receiving mental health treatment from outside the area.

Darren Millar, MS for Clwyd West, described figures as 'alarming' after a freedom of information (FOI) response from Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board (BCUHB) revealed that 41 adult patients and three children with mental health problems from North Wales were in placements outside of Wales in May.

There were 126 adults and no children in Welsh placements.

A total of 119 people have been in a residential unit for longer than 12 months. One person in Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services.

Two adult patients are residing in specialist mental health facilities provided by the Priory Group.

North Wales Pioneer:

Darren Millar, MS for Clwyd West, raised alarm about how many mental health patients were receiving treatment from outside the area (in May)

Mr Millar said: “They confirm my fears that, in spite of five years of special measures, there is insufficient capacity in the BCUHB area to deal with the needs of mental health patients.

“It is wrong that one in four of these vulnerable people, including children, are in placements outside of Wales and are not being treated closer to their homes and loved ones.

“The Health Board and the Welsh Government must urgently explain what action they are taking to increase capacity so that more vulnerable people from North Wales can be cared for in facilities in the region.”

Last month it was revealed that 1,695 mental health patients were 'incorrectly' discharged from hospitals in North Wales during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mr Millar added: “These figures, along with news that the board had incorrectly discharged 1,700 mental health patients, clearly demonstrate that the Welsh Government’s special measures are not working."

North Wales Pioneer:

The Ablett Unit is at Glan Clwyd Hospital

BCUHB, who marked five years of being in special measures earlier this month, said the number of patients, who have been sent out of the area because of high demand in across its mental health units, has reduced from 56 (May 2017/2018) to one patient in May 2020/21. Other patients receive care outside of Wales because 'their needs can only be met at specialist centres'.

The health board were also keen to clarify that Mr Millar's claim - that 'one in four of these vulnerable people, including children, are in placements outside of Wales' relates to specialist placements only - one in four specialist placements are outside of Wales.

This doesn’t include patients in acute mental health units such as the Ablett Unit at Glan Clwyd Hospital

Lesley Singleton, interim director of Mental Health and Learning Disabilities at BCUHB, said: “Since 2017, the number of patients who have received acute mental healthcare outside of North Wales because of high demand in our existing mental health units has reduced by 98 per cent. In the 2019/20 financial year our inpatient mental health units supported more than 1,500 patients.In common with NHS organisations across the UK, we sometimes need to send a much smaller number of patients with more complex needs out of area because they require care which can only be provided at specialist centres.

"This includes patients who require specialist care for eating disorders, acquired brain injury, or those who have very complex behavioural challenges as a result of a dual diagnosis of mental health and learning disabilities.

“In the last 12 months we have begun to deliver and commission more of this care within North Wales, ensuring that more people can receive care closer to the support network of friends and family.”

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “We want people to access mental health services as close to home as possible. Out of Wales placements continue to reduce with more people now being cared for in Wales. However, on occasions care can only be provided at very specialist centres in England, which provide services for the whole of the UK."

“These arrangements include ensuring providers support regular contact with families as appropriate.”