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Mental health patients face 'unacceptable' waits for emergency care

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Patients seeking treatment for mental health problems at hospital emergency departments in England were twice as likely to experience "unacceptable" waiting times of 12 hours or more than other patients, according to a service review.

The Royal College of Emergency Medicine (RCEM) described its findings as "unacceptable" and said the system frequently failed who were most unwell and vulnerable, particularly children and young people.

The report, Mental Health and Emergency Care, is the latest in the RCEM's acute insight series summarising important issues in emergency care and making recommendations for policymakers, NHS England, integrated care systems, and trusts.

The analysis noted that recorded prevalence of patients experiencing mental health needs had "dramatically increased" over the last 5 years. Despite accounting for a small proportion of attendances to emergency departments (EDs), a "mismatch" between capacity and demand, cuts to dedicated mental health hospital beds, and poor patient flow through the hospital system had led to long waits in recent months.

The greatest concern was for patients waiting for a mental health bed, those waiting for assessment under the Mental Health Act, and children and young people presenting in crisis, the RCEM said. 

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Source: Medscape, 22 September 2022

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