By Kim Moore, Senior Lecturer in Mental Health

National attention has been re-directed to mental health patients due to significant increases of mental health patients attending A&E departments.

National A&E attendance figures reported by the BBC highlighted that over the past four years A&E departments have recorded a 47% rise in A&E attendance by adult’s with mental health patients, and an 87% increase in children and adolescents attending A&E with mental health problems including self-harming.

It can be hard to remain non-judgemental when the story focuses on the underlying mental health issues, we minimise the physical effects and treat the person as two separate ‘problems’ yet mental and physical health are intrinsically linked. Logic suggests that once physically treated the patient would leave A&E creating an ‘admission and discharge flow’, this is not always the case for mental health, and it is this delay and blocking that becomes the focus of our attention within this story.

Professionals and patients rightly argue A&E is not the ‘right place’ for lengthy waits on mental health admissions for once the physical care is completed (BBC, 2017).  Yet, we encourage people to attend A&E if they feel unsafe or are experiencing a mental health crisis. Conflicting messages to attend A&E and reports of negative and punitive experiences by mental health patients (CQC, 2015) can work to decrease the parity of care.  While this may account for some of the problems being faced by A&E departments; there is a deeper and perhaps more urgent issue of continuing cuts to mental health services for adults and children alike.

Collaborations between organisations in the West Midlands have already developed new models of early intervention for both adults and children (Forward Thinking Birmingham) that may contribute to successfully addressing the A&E issues being raised.  Underlying the story are the complicated issues that mental health presents, increasing reliance on acute care services and ongoing financial cuts to mental health services.  Future investment in mental health will focus not on the treatment services, but with educational programmes and intervention at the earliest stages of life.  This is however a long term plan and the impact of this programme may not be seen for many years; leaving to the existing services to manage mental health crisis as best they can with the limited resources they have.

The following two tabs change content below.
Guest Blogger

Guest Blogger

Content by our Guest Blogger
Guest Blogger

Latest posts by Guest Blogger (see all)