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Shropshire health bosses defend missing patient figures

Telford | News | Published:

Health bosses have defended themselves after it was revealed that more than 1,253 patients have gone missing from hospitals in Shropshire in the past five years.

In figures released last week, it was revealed that 727 patients had been reported missing from the county's two main hospitals in Shrewsbury and Telford between 2012 to 2016.

The Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust today said it takes the care and safety of patients very seriously.

There were also 526 patients reported to have gone missing from the wards during that time from the Redwoods Centre mental health facility in Shrewsbury.

Of those patients who went missing, one suffered accidental harm, five suffered physical injuries and nine self harmed.

Between 2012 and 2016, 330 patients disappeared from wards at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital. In 2013 and 2015 70 patients per year went missing.

At the Princess Royal Hospital 397 patients were reported missing from wards. The highest number recorded was 94 in 2015.

The majority of those who walked off the wards were found quickly but the longest period of time that a patient was missing for was 13 days and 21 hours. All those who were missing were returned to the hospitals for further treatment.

Julia Clarke, director of corporate governance at SaTH, said: "The care and safety of our patients come before everything else we do.

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"Adult patients are free to come and go as they please unless they are detained under the Mental Health Act, Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards or are in police custody receiving treatment at the trust.

"It is important to balance safe and secure care against the provision of patient-centred care in a non-restrictive setting. Sometimes patients simply leave the ward to buy something from the shop or to make a private phone call, etc.

Rarely, some patients may leave the site due to their emotional state, confusion or because they have capacity and have discharged themselves.

"If a patient has left the ward without informing staff and their whereabouts cannot be accounted for they must be assumed as missing. When this happens, Measures are taken to account for or find that patient immediately. This includes an initial search by staff involved in the patient's care and then, if necessary, a more involved search. We have CCTV cameras at all major entrances and 24/7 security staff who work closely with the police in these circumstances."

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South Staffordshire and Shropshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust has responsibility for the Redwoods, which offers specialist care for adults suffering from mental health issues including bi-polar and schizophrenia.

Deputy director of nursing Kenny Laing said: "We take the safety of our patients very seriously and work closely with our police colleagues whenever someone is deemed to be missing.

"In some cases this may simply be that they have not returned on time from a period spent away from the hospital, agreed as part of their individual plan of care.

"In line with trust policy and procedure the police will be called to assist in finding and returning these individuals. We recognise there is an important balance to be kept between providing safe and secure care and providing recovery focused care in the least restrictive setting possible.

"The trust works hard to ensure we respond to the individual needs of each patient, based on up to date risk assessment."

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