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 forced to wait more than 12 weeks to start treatment.
The Royal College of Psychiatrists said its research found that 43% of adults with mental illness say long waits for treatment have worsened their mental health. Almost a quarter (23%) have to wait more than 12 weeks to start treatment, and many are so desperate that they turn to A&E or dial 999.
The university said many people face a “hidden waiting time” to start 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.
Patients whose mental health deteriorated said it had led to financial problems such as debt, job struggles resulting in job loss, as well as relationship difficulties, including divorce and family breakdown. A significant proportion end up so desperate for help that they turn to A&E or call 999, the university said.
It calls for a year-over-year increase in medical school places from 7,000 to 15,000 by 2028/29 and a fully funded workforce strategy to address staffing shortages.
Dr. Kate Lovett, the university’s presidential recruiting leader, said: “We cannot sit idly by and watch the most vulnerable people in our society end up in crisis. Spiraling mental health wait times not only wreak havoc on patients’ lives, they also leave National Health Service services with the impossible task of coping with the growing demand”.
One patient, a 45-year-old woman from South London, recounted 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 show up at A&E, which was a traumatic experience – having to be reassessed and readmitted over and over again. Going to A&E was the only way for me to be seen regularly. No one should have to go through that.”
It comes as separate research for the charity Mind which found that 40% of 16-24 year olds say they don’t have the words to share how they are doing. feelings when struggling with their mental health. Most (91%) said they used creative means like listening to music or talking to help them cope with their feelings.
A spokesman for the Department of Health and Social Care said: “Mental well-being is a priority for the government and we will spend a An additional £2.3bn a year of mental health services by 2024, giving 2 million more people the help they need.”
The government will announce on Monday that an NHS service to help people receiving mental health support with their employment will be rolled out nationwide. Around £122 million is being invested to expand the service so that people receiving help for common mental health problems have access to an employment adviser, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will say.
Sean Duggan, chief executive of the NHS Confederation mental health network, said it was “good news”, but added that with 1 million people now on waiting lists for specialist mental health care, it was “deeply worrying”. that the government’s long-term vision “remains a mystery”.