• NHS England earmarks cash to set up new specialist community mental health teams to treat patients who once posed a high potential risk to the public
  • Providers able to bid up to £1.2m each
  • NHS England will be conducting talks with mental health leaders before the bidding process opens
  • New teams will help support high risk patients who have committed crimes to come out of secure facilities and integrate into the community

Providers are to be given the chance to bid for up to £1.2m to expand treatment for mental health patients who once posed a potential risk to the public, HSJ can reveal.

NHS England is understood to be preparing to invest in setting up new specialist forensic community mental health teams across the country.

Forensic teams provide treatment to high acuity patients who have committed crimes, supporting them to exit inpatient units and safely integrate back into communities.

These are often some of the most complex patients who have spent time in high secure mental health units or prisons.

HSJ understands that NHS England sent out an email to providers alerting them to the new cash, and is expected to have high level conversations with trust leaders this month. After this, the bidding process is expected to be opened.

While each area will be able to bid for £1.2m to set up a new specialist forensic community team, it is not known how many successful bids will be chosen, nor the total size of the money pot.

It is also not clear whether the funding will come from Five Year Forward View for Mental Health monies or elsewhere.

HSJ also understands that a second wave of new funding could be made available to extend the programme in April 2019.

The new teams are expected to help reduce out of area placements by moving lower acuity forensic patients out of inpatient settings and into the community, which would free up capacity in adult wards. Specialist forensic community mental health teams also form part of some of the new care models being given devolved specialised commissioning budgets from NHS England.

A key objective of the mental health forward view is to eliminate inappropriate out of area placements due to lack of beds by 2020-21.

Chair of the forensic faculty at the Royal College of Psychiatrists Pamela Taylor welcomed the new cash.

She said: “It’s very good news, it’s always a good plan to introduce these teams in a modest way so you can evaluate their impact.

“But the expectation would be that with proper community services we would be able on the one hand to slightly shorten the length of time people spend in very expensive high security hospitals, but in safety. At the same time it would get more people with mental health problems out of prisons.”

An NHS England spokesman said: “Getting people care as close to home as possible is good for patients and offers better value for money.

“As part of our transformation plans for mental health, the NHS will trial models of secure care which will give the best possible care to patients in a way which is safe and appropriate.”