More than 4,000 patients have been sent for mental health treatment outside their health board area in the past five years, according to latest figures.
The Scottish Liberal Democrats, who obtained the figures through parliamentary questions, have warned that mental health units across Scotland are struggling to cope with demand.
Ministers need to stop sitting on their handsJim Hume MSP
The figures show that, in 2013-14, a total of 799 patients were discharged from a psychiatric hospital in a different area from where they live. This compares with 793 in 2012-13 and 855 the year before that.
The Lib Dems have called for action to tackle the issue. The party’s health spokesman, Jim Hume MSP, said: “Whilst there will always be some patients who need to be sent to specialist clinics outside of their health board for treatment, it is clear that mental health units across the country are struggling to cope with demand on their services.
“In the past five years, over 4,000 patients have been sent outside of their health board for treatment. We know that sending patients out of area can isolate them from their support networks, including friends, families and their community care team.
“These figures are disappointing though, sadly, come as no surprise given that there is only one child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) bed for the whole north of Scotland. Waiting times for key mental health treatments for both adults and young people are still being missed.
“With mental health problems affecting one in four people in Scotland, it is clear that local health boards do not have the resources needed to cope with demand. Too many mental health care units are creaking at the seams.
“SNP ministers need to stop sitting on their hands and develop a plan of action.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Mental health services are an absolute priority of this government. People experiencing mental health problems are amongst some of the most vulnerable in our country and it’s vital that the health service is properly equipped to give them the support and treatment they need.
“We have been investing heavily for a number of years, and waiting times have come down significantly, despite a rise in the number of people seeking help. Scotland was the first country in the UK to have a mental health waiting times target – a sign of how importantly we view this issue.
“Treatment is delivered at the most appropriate facility where the best care can be provided, regardless of boundaries. There are good reasons for these patients, around 5 per cent of the total 78,000 people treated in the past five years, to travel beyond their local board area to another community to receive the specialist care they need.”