THERE are not enough hospital beds for people suffering with severe mental health issues in Hampshire, a meeting heard.

As many as ten beds per month have to be transferred to private units due to a lack of space in existing facilities within the Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust’s (SHFT) area.

It comes after the controversial decision in 2012 to close 48 of the 165 acute hospital beds in the region, with plans to make mental health care community based.

Woodhaven in Calmore lost 24 beds, with the site now used for people with learning disabilities.

The Hampshire County Council Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee (HOSC) met with health chiefs to discuss the changes and heard that bed-blocking was stopping services from being effectively used, eating up valuable resources and funding.

Inger Hebden, director of commissioning long term conditions and community at West Hampshire Care Commissioning Group, said: “Most patients will need to go out because they are quite specialised and we haven’t got a local provision. We do know that there are patients now that are going out of area that we should be looking after here. It’s not a resource issue.”

Dr Lesley Stevens, clinical director for mental health of SHFT, said: “Ten beds per month are used out of area. Nationally mental health services have experienced the same issues that we have locally.

“We should have enough resources to deliver community services, and what we do in the community is working well.”

In January HOSC heard SHFT’s plans to invest in crisis housing and medical provisions within inpatient and community teams to help cope with bed-blocking, and it was expected that significant improvements would be seen by April.

However, councillors heard that the situation remains unchanged, and some were concerned about families and friends looking after their loved ones.

Cllr David Harrison, Totton South and Marchwood representative, used an example of one of his constituents. He said: “He had been cared for by his 80-year-old mother, and was arrested six weeks ago by police and has been in Winchester Prison ever since. It is the worst place for him, and this is happening in our community. His mother is worried sick.

“People are thrust into a position to care for people that are unwell when we haven’t got a community service that is fit for purpose.”

Councillors recommended that housing and funding should be further discussed to tackle the issue.