MENTAL health patients in Blackburn with Darwen have been sent on round trips of more than nine hours for rehabilitation on wards 290 miles away from home, new figures have revealed.

And Blackburn with Darwen and East Lancashire Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) spent 100 per cent of their rehabilitation bed costs on private providers in the past three years.

A British Medical Association (BMA) investigation has revealed a 'widespread' practice of NHS patients with serious mental health issues being ‘warehoused’ on private mental health wards, often hundreds of miles from home.

The body claimed that patients are admitted to private wards, 'isolated from family members and with little to no contact with NHS doctors overseeing their treatment.'

The figures showed that Blackburn with Darwen CCG spent £11.08m on private sector rehabilitation beds in the three years from 2016 to 2019.

Meanwhile East Lancashire CCG spent £12.44m on private sector rehabilitation beds.

The average round trip for patients who were sent out of both CCG areas was just under two hours.

One patient in Blackburn with Darwen was sent on a round trip of nine hours and ten minutes for rehab, some 290.58 miles away.

Another in East Lancashire faced a round trip of seven hours and 14 minutes, a distance of 207.13 miles, according to the NHS figures.

It comes after the Lancashire Telegraph revealed that two men from Blackburn had to go as far as Plymouth and Southampton for treatment because there were no mental health beds locally.

David Wrigley, Lancashire’s representative on the BMA, described the situation as an 'outrage'.

He said: "These figures show the extent of the crisis in mental health due to a lack of beds locally.

"One aspect of this is the cost of these private mental health premises is more than NHS ones.

"While the other is that patients need support from relatives and that's difficult when they're stranded hundreds of miles away from home.

"It's not good for their recovery or rehabilitation.

He added: "The government has talked of parity of esteem for mental health patients yet nothing has transpired from this, with them being treated very much as second class citizens."

Commissioners have said that ever effort is made to try and place patients who need rehab support locally, within one of the three units based in Lancashire and South Cumbria.

They said this was to ensure regular clinical reviews and minimise travel for the patients' families.

Paul Hopley, deputy director of commissioning for mental Health for Lancashire and South Cumbria, said: "Placements further afield are then considered as a last resort, and where this happens, the progress that patients make is closely monitored and steps are made to bring them back closer to home as soon as possible.

“As part of the on-going work following the publication of the review in to urgent mental health services, we have started to explore how to best ensure that we are able to provide high dependency and long-term complex care provision locally in the future, with the intention to provide quality, value for money and less restrictive post-hospital care closer to home for our patients.”

Lisa Moorhouse, head of operations for the mental health network at Lancashire Care Foundation Trust, the county's main mental health organisation, added: "Lancashire Care is working closely with commissioners and partners to vastly improve the local learning disability and rehab provision in Lancashire and South Cumbria and there is a commitment from them to increase resources in line with the national Mental Health Investment Standard.

"We are working together to identify estate where we could provide such beds locally, at the same time as improving community services so that fewer people need an inpatient stay."