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Eight days waiting in A&E: Inside the crisis in NHS mental health care

People suffering from mental illness are increasingly struggling to access help at every level of the NHS – from record numbers facing “unacceptable” delays in referrals to patients waiting up to eight days in A&E for a hospital bed.

Figures seen by The Independent show almost four times as many people are waiting more than 12 hours in emergency departments as two years ago.

In the community, more than 16,000 adults and 20,000 children who should receive NHS care are unable to access vital services each month.

Nearly 80% of those eligible for counselling on the health service are left waiting more than three months for a second appointment, which is when treatment usually begins.

Health leaders say they are “deeply concerned” by the lack of resources available to handle the rise in demand – and warned that the cost of living crisis would exacerbate the issue further.

Monica Smith went to A&E at Lewisham last month after her mental health deteriorated when her medication ran out and she was unable to get more.

The 32-year-old said: “I was told, ‘We can’t find any beds – there’s no bed in the whole country or the whole region, so we’re going to have a bed on A&E and hopefully you’ll get a bed in the morning.’”

Monica started hallucinating and was given medication to calm her down, but in the morning there was still no bed. Doctors tried to send her home, she said, but crisis services assessed her three times over the following days and each time decided she was too unwell.

Instead, Monica stayed in an annex off A&E with other mental health patients. She said: “I was on this, like, mattress, like a mental health mattress on the floor.”

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Source: The Independent, 27 November 2022


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