The number of people in inpatient psychiatric or learning disability beds fell between 2014 and 2016, according to an NHS survey.
The inpatient bed census was carried out at midnight on March 31 and found there were 3,633 patients occupying a psychiatric, addiction or learning disability bed. The last census, taken in October 2014, found there were 3,909.
Minister for Mental Health, Maureen Watt MSP, welcomed the findings as a sign that more people were being treated in a community setting or while living at home.
The census found that bed occupancy was 85% – achieving the best practice figure set by the Royal College of Psychiatrists. Of the 3,633 patients, 58% were male. In addition, 2% were under 18, 22% were aged 18-39, 35% 40-64 and 41% over 64.
The majority of patients (2,702) were on a general psychiatric ward, while 338 were in a low security ward and 117 in a high security ward.
In terms of ward type, 1,346 (37%) were acute, 465 were dementia care and treatment, 356 continuing care (non-dementia). Meanwhile, 160 were in a learning disability ward and 70 in a forensic (learning disability) ward.
For the first time the census gathered information on patients’ physical health. It found that 2,002 were overweight – representing 59% of those for whom BMI was known. Meanwhile, 35% of patients smoked – compared with 20% in the general population.
“This census improves our understanding of mental health, addiction and learning disability services and the people who use them,” said Watt. “Most importantly, it allows us to improve these services.
“It’s encouraging that this census appears to show a reduction in the number of psychiatric inpatients. For some people, hospital treatment is the right option. However, there will be many for whom the most effective treatments can be delivered in community settings, while they are living at home.
“The physical health problems experienced by many psychiatric inpatients are highlighted by this report. This shows the need to improve physical and mental health at the same time, looking also at weight loss, physical activity and smoking cessation. I want this to be one of the main things we look at as part of our new mental health strategy, which will be published by the end of the year.”