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Patients turning to A&E as wait times for NHS mental health treatment spiral

Mental health patients are increasingly having to turn to A&E for help, experts have warned, as new research suggests nearly one in four are being forced to wait more than 12 weeks to start treatment.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists said its research found 43% of adults with mental illness say the long waits for treatment have led to their mental health getting worse. Almost a quarter (23%) have to wait more than 12 weeks to start treatment, with many so desperate they turn to A&E or dial 999.

The college said many people face a “hidden wait time” for starting treatment, with no publicly available data on how long people wait from their initial referral to actually starting treatment.

Those surveyed for the research had a range of mental illnesses, including eating disorders, addiction, bipolar disorder, anxiety and depression.

Dr Kate Lovett, the college’s presidential lead for recruitment, said: “We cannot sit idly by and watch the most vulnerable people in our society end up in crisis. Not only do spiralling mental health waiting times wreak havoc on patients’ lives, but they also leave NHS services with the impossible task of tackling rising demand.”

One female patient, a 45-year-old from south London, told how she ended up in A&E after having to wait seven months to be referred to a community team.

“The only other way to get help was to present to A&E, which was a traumatic experience – having to be reassessed and readmitted again and again. Turning up to A&E was the only way I could be seen regularly. No one should have to go through that.”

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Source: The Guardian, 10 October 2022


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