New investment of around £37m is planned for mental health services across the Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes integrated care system (ICS) by 2023/24 to meet rising demand.

The spending is part of its response to the NHS Long Term Plan, according to a report to Bedford Borough Council’s health overview and scrutiny committee.

Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes Clinical Commissioning Group and East London NHS Foundation Trust (ELFT) are committed to developing modern, state-of-the-art mental health services locally, the report explained.

The aim is for substantial improvement of these services for pregnant women and new mothers, children and young people, adults with common mental health problems or with serious mental illness, including crisis.

Bedford and Luton centres for inpatient mental health services would form part of our comprehensive mental health offer.

These would be supported by and complement community mental health services across Bedford borough, Central Bedfordshire and Luton borough.”

ELFT’s proposals were deemed to require public consultation, following initial presentations to scrutiny health committees of the three local authorities earlier this year.

One in four people will experience a mental health issue every year and the overall number experiencing problems has been increasing recently, said the report to the committee.

Poor mental health can result from poverty, unemployment, problems with family or relationships, isolation, physical health, trauma or loss as a child or as an adult.

Risk factors include poverty, debt and deprivation, unemployment and job insecurity, substance misuse and poor-quality housing or homelessness.

Data from Public Health England indicates risk factors for poor mental health are more common in Luton compared to Bedford and Central Bedfordshire.

Bedford borough’s joint health and wellbeing strategy 2018-2023 notes that an estimated 2,950 children (7.8 per cent) in Bedford live with an adult who has a mental health issue.

And 2,200 (5.9 per cent) live with a dependent drinker, while up to 420 live with a daily drug using parent.

The strategy says that men with mental illness die on average 16 years earlier, and for women it’s 12 years.”

Central Bedfordshire health and wellbeing strategy 2018-2023 notes that about one in four people will experience a mental health problem in any one year.

Three quarters of mental illnesses start before a child reaches their 18th birthday, it reveals.

Luton’s population wellbeing strategy 2019-2024 shows the number of people recorded with depression in primary care has grown by 39.5 per cent to 59,794 across Bedfordshire and Luton during the past five years.

Current community mental health services in Bedfordshire include:

  • Community and voluntary sector organisations providing support services
  • General practice providing assessment and treatment and referral onwards where required
  • Community based services providing multi-disciplinary health and social care assessment, treatment, care planning and support for children and young people and their families
  • Specialist community services for particular populations, such as children and young people with eating disorders, and autism spectrum disorder services
  • A 24-hour NHS 111 mental health crisis line.

Inpatient mental health services provide assessment and treatment for people in mental health crisis, and where a period in hospital will support treatment and recovery, added the report.

There are currently 160 beds for adults and older adults resident within Bedford, Central Bedfordshire and Luton.

But challenges over the clinical environment at Oakley Court in Luton and Townsend Court in Houghton Regis prompted plans to switch some services to Bedford and the Calnwood Court site in Luton.

Part of the revamp of services aims to avoid the need for some patients to travel to London.”