Mental health patients in crisis waiting too long for help

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One in 10 mental health patients discharged from hospital after suffering a crisis has to wait more than a week for a follow-up appointment, according to new figures out today.

The data, obtained by mental health charity Mind from responses to a freedom of information request by 54 of the 56 NHS mental health trusts in England, showed at least 11,000 people did not get an appointment or phone call within seven days of leaving hospital in 2015/16.

Its survey of more than 850 patients also found that those who were not followed up within a week, if at all, were more than twice as likely to attempt suicide than those who had a swift follow-up – at 16% compared with 7%.

The North West Boroughs Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust which covers Wigan discharged 2,205 people and followed up 96% of them within seven days, leaving 88 people waiting longer than the recommended time.

National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) guidelines state all patients should be followed up within seven days, or 48 hours if deemed a suicide risk.

The charity has called for all patients to be contacted after just two days, citing evidence given to a national inquiry that the highest proportion of those who take their own lives did so three days after discharge.

MPs on the Health Select Committee last month expressed disappointment that the Government had not acted on a previous recommendation calling for all patients discharged from inpatient care to receive follow-up checks within three days.

Sophie Corlett, director of external relations at Mind, said: “This is not good enough. It is a tragedy that so many people so very recently leaving the care of hospital are losing their lives.

“The Government has put suicide prevention as a key patient safety issue for the NHS as a whole and pledged to reduce suicides by 10 per cent in the next five years. Timelier follow-up for patients after they leave hospital could help achieve this. If you don’t get the right care after you leave, if you’re left to cope alone, you can end up in a revolving door going straight back in to hospital or be at risk of taking your own life.

“Seven days is simply too long to wait when someone’s recovery is still at risk. We need to see a reduction of the follow-up time to 48 hours now.”

Imani, 36, was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder and complex-post traumatic stress disorder and had three voluntary inpatient admissions when she was acutely suicidal.

She said: “When I got out, I thought, ‘I’ve just been in hospital, I’ve been suicidal - I’m sure they’re going to be giving me one hundred per cent support’. I remember coming out and thinking I wanted to go back in again. I don’t remember being in contact with the hospital once I’d come out – no phone call, no visit – and I needed to see someone.”