Thousands of NHS mental health patients are being sent to private facilities because there are no free beds available, an investigation has found.
Some of these already-vulnerable people face journeys of more than 100 miles from home to receive crucial treatment.
The health service spent a staggering £186million last year on sending these patients to private rehab facilities which, experts warn, are a 'breeding ground for abuse'.
Senior nurses say mental health patients are 'treated like second-class citizens' as their local doctors 'warehouse' them elsewhere to get help.
One extreme case was sent to a private facility in Glasgow, despite living 170 miles (274km) away in Northamptonshire.
Sandwell and West Birmingham's NHS was not alone in spending its entire mental health budget on private care over the last three years, dropping a total of £20.6million.
Numerous local NHS boards spent most of their mental health funding on sending patients to private facilities in 2017-18, with those in Sandwell and West Birmingham, South Worcestershire, Walsall, East Lancashire, and Blackburn with Darwen spent all their money on private care
The British Medical Association found that more than 2,000 mentally ill patients were placed in private clinics last year because no NHS beds were available.
This includes three who were sent to Whorlton Hall, a private hospital in County Durham that was closed in May after staff were caught abusing patients with learning difficulties.
A further 700 were placed in 'locked rehab' in private hospitals - where they are not allowed leave their ward, which experts say risks breaching their human rights.
Many of the patients, who have long-term mental health problems, are being placed hundreds of miles away from their families and have little or no contact with NHS doctors.
Dr Andrew Molodynski, the BMA lead for mental health, said: 'As seen in the cases of Whorlton Hall and Winterbourne, the "cut-off" nature of these institutions can be a breeding ground for the development of harsh and abusive cultures.
'This has no place in modern mental healthcare.
'As well as the debilitating impact on the patient, the eye-watering sums being spent on out-of-area private providers is a clear sign that the Government must get a grip on this worrying practice.
'There are no positives here for patients, families, care services, or the public purse- quite the opposite.'
The BMA's Doctor magazine analysed the journeys of 2,600 NHS patients who have been sent to private clinics in the past three years.
Of these, 140 faced more than a seven-hour round trip to their homes.
One patient from Northamptonshire was sent to a private hospital in Glasgow, while another from Kent was placed 150 miles (241km) away in Darlington, County Durham.
The report warned that mental health rehabilitation wards have all but disappeared from 18 Clinical Commissioning Groups – local NHS boards, also known as CCGs – and NHS trusts in England.
This has left around five million people entirely reliant out-of-area private services.
Figures show that 57 per cent of the NHS budget for mental health rehabilitation now goes to private firms – up from 54 per cent a year earlier.
Dr Raj Mohan, from the Royal College of Psychiatrists, warned that out-of-area care has now become the 'default' for many NHS trusts.
He said: 'There