NHS pays firms £181m to care for patients with serious mental illnesses

Due to a severe shortage of NHS mental health beds in England, the NHS has been left with no option but to pay private institutions such as the Priory increased sums to provide residential rehabilitation each year.

“The NHS is paying private firms an “eye-watering” £181m a year to look after people with serious mental health problems in units often hundreds of miles from their homes.” – The Guardian.

According to official figures from the British Medical Association (BMA), the amount received by private firms has risen by £23m in the last three years; from £158m in 2016-2017 to £181m in 2018.

It is no secret that the NHS is under pressure and struggling to cope with increasing demand. However, these latest figures are a clear sign to the government that something urgently must be done.

There are also further concerns in relation to the quality of care patients are receiving at some of these privately run units in light of recent cases of staff facing criminal charges as a result of patient mistreatment and also in relation to the distance some patients have to travel, thus reducing the prospects of recovery. The research found that during the course of the last three years, of the 2,600 NHS patients sent to private clinics, 140 of those faced a round trip of more than seven hours from their home.

The BMA has said that the figures quoted above are underestimates of the true sum paid out, so one can only imagine what the actual figure might be. What is clear, however, is that this has become a worrying practice from all perspectives (patients, families, care providers and the general public) and one for which the government needs to take back control.

How this might impact on the type and level of claims that might be pursued only time will tell…


Authored by Rebecca Blundell, Associate, BLM


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