Out of area placements
An 'out of area placement' (OAP) for acute mental health inpatient care occurs when a person with assessed acute mental health needs who requires inpatient care, is admitted to a unit which does not form part of the usual local network of services. This means that the person cannot be visited regularly by their care co-ordinator to ensure continuity of care and effective discharge planning. Patients should be treated in a location which helps them to maintain contact with family, carers and friends, and to feel as familiar as possible with their local surrounding.
The government has set a national ambition to eliminate inappropriate OAPs in mental health services for adults in acute inpatient care by 2020 to 2021. Inappropriate OAPs are where patients are sent out of area because no bed is available for them locally, which can delay their recovery.
OAPs are an indicator of a whole mental health system under pressure, not simply the result of too few acute mental health beds. A lack of focus on prevention, high levels of delayed discharge, increasing pressures in community care, lack of crisis response, and a rise in Mental Health Act use can all increase the pressure on bed capacity, which can in turn lead to reliance on OAPs.
The Out of Area Placements (OAPs) in Mental Health Services data collection began in October 2016 and is for providers in England only. The collection only includes OAPs that have started since the beginning of the collection, meaning that the current maximum duration for an OAP is 592 nights. The longer the OAP collection goes on the greater percentage of the total number of OAPs are expected to be included in the collection.
An OAP for acute mental health inpatient care is defined as happening when: A person with assessed acute mental health needs who requires adult mental health acute inpatient care, is admitted to a unit that does not form part of their usual local network of services. By this we mean an inpatient unit that does not usually admit people living in the catchment of the person's local community mental health service, and where the person cannot be visited regularly by their care co-oridnator to ensure continuity of care and effective discharge planning
The number of recorded OAPs nationally is very low which means that the figures are susceptible to random variation (chance). For more information, please see NHS Digital's Out of Area Placements (OAPs) - Data Quality Statement.