ST HELENS Clinical Commissioning Group spent more than £4 million on out of area mental health placements in 2018.

Professor Sarah O’Brien, chief accountable officer for the CCG, told board members that it failed to meet its £500,000 savings target for out of area mental health placements for 2017-18.

She said the organisation has forecast that it has spent £4.1 million on 39 patients supported outside of the St Helens area.

“That illustrates the complexity of these individuals that, that amount of money, which is a lot of money, is being spent on a very small number of packages.

“Right now, we have 29 live packages, so we have 29 complex mental health packages which we’re funding.”

Of that figure, 14 patients are currently placed outside of the North West.

“This is why there is a big drive to bring individuals closer to home,” she said.

“Apart from the fact that it is better for them and their family, but also the cost because the further away from home they go, the more expensive the packages go.

“It is a big area of expense and we did set some quite challenging targets around that.”

Prof O’Brien said the CCG made net savings of £331,000 on out of area mental health placements in 2017-18.

Despite not hitting its target, Prof O’Brien said the savings made are still an “achievement”.

She said: “We haven’t hit the £500,000 target but we are going to hit £331,000, which is actually, I think an achievement because these are complex individuals.

“You can be close to your target and one complex case can come in and you have to place them somewhere.

“And at the end of the day, ultimately, you have to place these individuals in a quality safe place for them at the time that they are in a crisis.

“That becomes the priority – not the cost of the package.”

The CCG chief said out of area mental health placements are a “challenge” for the whole of Cheshire and Merseyside.

She said work is going on between the two counties to tackle the issue.

“There is work that could be done across the whole of the patch to increase the number of beds that are available in the patch, that all Cheshire and Merseyside residents can access,” she said.