Some North-east residents are undertaking 850-mile round trips to get mental health treatment, the Evening Express can today reveal.
New figures show that, in the 12 months up to April 2017, 15 people living in the North-east could not get the support they needed in the region and so had to travel to England – at a cost of £2.7 million to NHS Grampian.
Documents uncovered by the Evening Express, as the result of a freedom of information request, show at least one patient had to travel to St Andrew’s Healthcare facility in Birmingham – 425 miles from Aberdeen.
The statistics also show the number of people living here and having to be treated as in-patients at Scottish hospitals outside the region has doubled since 2014, and the number of outpatients being seen elsewhere has quadrupled.
Usually, people with mental health problems would be treated at the Royal Cornhill Hospital or other health facilities within the NHS Grampian area.
In 2016/17, 62 inpatients were treated outwith the North-east, compared with 31 in 2014/15. Of the 62, 42 were treated in Tayside, eight in Lothian, seven in the Highlands and five at Carstairs State Hospital in Lanark.
In 2016/17, 522 outpatients were seen outwith the North-east, compared with 129 in 2014/15.
Of the 522, 429 were seen in Tayside and 40 in the Highlands. A further 25 had to go to Argyll and Clyde and others had to visit areas including Fife, Ayrshire and Lothian.
An NHS Grampian spokesman said outpatients sometimes choose to be treated elsewhere if they are working away, have relatives there or if it is more convenient.
Health boards elsewhere have specialist inpatient services for people with conditions such as eating disorders, the spokesman said.
He added: “NHS Grampian has agreements with these services in anticipation of patient need and the number of patients being referred out to these reflects very positively that patients are being treated in the most appropriate centre for their specialist needs.
“It would not be cost effective or possible to recreate these specialist services in every health board area, by their nature they require special facilities and staff with enhanced skills.
“The development of these regional services over the past seven years has been a very positive development for patients and their carers.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We expect health boards and integration authorities to ensure mental health care and treatment is available within community and hospital treatment.
“The vast majority of people are treated locally and, generally, out-of-area treatment is provided in order to access to highly specialist treatment.”