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Poor deal for mental health patients in emergencies

Report finds variable care for those with mental health needs

OnMedica Staff

Friday, 30 May 2008

People with mental health problems accessing acute hospital services get a very variable deal, finds a report by the Royal Colleges.

Managing Urgent Mental Health Needs in the Acute Trust calls for new national standards to ensure people receive prompt assessment and management by properly trained staff.

At the moment, those attending emergency departments or who are admitted to medical and surgical wards encounter ‘extremely variable’ provision of mental health services. This is despite the fact that many will use the services of such departments frequently, often when they are at their most vulnerable.

The report, produced by the Royal College of Psychiatrists and the College of Emergency Medicine in collaboration with the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal College of Nursing, also found that where services are in operation, they have been under threat from other commitments placed on the NHS by Government reform.

And there is little chance of others developing them as there has been no incentive to commission services as they don’t feature on the ‘must do’ agenda for mental health or acute services, the report says.

‘Yet good management of mental health problems can make a significant contribution to the efficiency of acute hospitals and improve patient outcomes,’ it points out.

‘The same standard of urgent assessment, diagnosis and intervention should be provided for mental health care as is expected for physical health care,’ said Professor Dame Carol Black, chairwoman of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges.

‘This requires an extension of current standards to cover practice in these acute services, commissioning of services and assessment of performance.’

The report calls on the colleges to work together to train all grades of staff in psychiatric assessment and management of people with mental health needs.

It also recommends patients should have access to a consultant Liaison psychiatrist and Liaison services should co-ordinate the front line response for psychiatric support to emergency departments.


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