Mental health move eases pressure on ageing hospital

Moving mental health patients out of hospital and back home has seen a 40 per cent drop in admissions.

Health chiefs, with the backing of mental health charities, have been working hard to banish the legacy of psychiatric "institutions" and see increasing integration as a key way of achieving it.

As a result, the numbers coming through the doors at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital in Morningside have fallen significantly in the past three years.

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But while that has been welcomed, critics say there was little choice given the number of beds which have been cut there.

The results were revealed in a presentation by the Edinburgh Community Health Partnership showing progress on mental health in the area.

Consultant psychiatrist for NHS Lothian Mark Taylor said: "Mental illness is a common health problem in this area. Until 2008 it was a traditional hospital service and there were multiple ways into the hospital.

"So we invested 1.6 million to develop a new model."

Now there are only around 3000 admissions to the hospital, compared to more than 5000 a few years ago.

In addition, the number of readmissions - an indication that a patient may not have had the correct care - has also dropped sharply.

Thanks to initiatives to care for people at home or in supported community settings, fewer people occupy the hospital.

Mr Taylor added: "What we have got now is a virtual hospital ward in our team. We offer care visits two or three times a day to maintain their independence while treating their mental health requirements. There has been a cultural shift."

Health chiefs said the decrease places less strain on the ageing hospital behind Morningside Road.

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After years of discussion, it has been decided to rebuild the hospital gradually over the next decade after patients and staff complained the current premises were not "fit for purpose".

But one mental health source told the Evening News: "Some of what has been said is welcome, but really there has been no choice but to move people out of the hospital because of the beds that have been taken away.

"Not everyone can be taken away from a hospital setting, some really are not ready for that and we have to be careful not to create a culture where people are rushed out too soon because the consequences could be really terrible."

Experts said integrating psychiatric patients back into the community was key in reducing stigma.

The director of the See Me campaign Suzie Vestri said: "Any moves which reduce hospital admissions must be welcomed if it means that we are finding better ways to provide treatment."

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