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Almost 38,000 mental health appointments miss vital 72-hour window


Nearly 38,000 vital follow-up appointments with mental health patients were missed at the time when they were most at risk of suicide, the Royal College of Psychiatrists has said.

The medical body has called for “urgent action” to ensure more people are seen for follow-ups within 72 hours of their discharge from inpatient care, to prevent them from falling “through the cracks when they are so vulnerable”.

The risk of suicide is highest on the second and third days after leaving a mental health ward, but 37,999 follow-up appointments with patients were not made within this timeframe in England between April 2020 and May 2022.

According to NHS data, of the 160,430 instances when patients were eligible for follow-up care within 72 hours after discharge from acute adult mental health care, only three-quarters (76%) took place within that period.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists is calling for more trained specialists to check on those perceived to be at risk, which they say requires more staffing and funding.

The president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, Dr Adrian James, said: “We simply can’t afford to let people fall through the cracks at a time when they are so vulnerable. It’s vital that our mental health services are properly staffed and funded to offer proper follow-up care and help prevent suicides.

“Staff are working as hard as they can to provide high-quality care, but it’s clear that current resources are not enough to meet these targets. We need urgent action to tackle the workforce crisis and achieve the suicide prevention goals set out in the NHS long-term plan.”

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Source: The Guardian, 22 August 2022

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