NHS paying £2bn a year to private hospitals for mental health patients

Exclusive: Fears grow that bed shortages have left NHS increasingly reliant on independent sector

‘I thought she’d be safe’: a life lost to suicide in a place meant for recovery

The NHS is paying £2bn a year to private hospitals to care for mental health patients because it does not have enough of its own beds, the Guardian can reveal.

The independent sector receives about 13.5% of the £14.8bn the NHS in England spends on mental health, a dramatic rise since 2005 when it was paid £951m. Nine out of every 10 of the 10,123 mental health beds run by private operators are occupied by NHS patients.

Independent mental health care providers now make 91% of their income from the NHS.

Their typical profit margins are 15%-20%.

A majority of inpatient care for under-18s is now outsourced, with independent operators looking after 55% of all the children and young people who are hospitalised.

Non-NHS providers earn £316m a year for treating children and young people.

In the UK and Ireland, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org or jo@samaritans.ie. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is 13 11 14. Other international helplines can be found at www.befrienders.org.

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