“Sharp rise in A&E attendances by young people with psychiatric conditions”

By Neil Puffett

| 25 October 2018

There has been a steep rise in the number of young people aged 18 or under arriving at accident and emergency (A&E) departments in England with psychiatric conditions, it has emerged.

In response to a parliamentary question from Labour MP Bambos Charalambous, the Department of Health and Social Care revealed that, in 2017/18, there were 27,487 attendances to A&E departments by young people aged 18 or under with a recorded diagnosis of a psychiatric condition.

This is almost triple the number in 2010/11, when there were 9,372 attendances, and almost double the figure for 2012/13, when there were 13,800 attendances.

Emma Thomas, chief executive of young people's mental health charity YoungMinds, described the figures as "alarming".

"One of the main reasons that crisis services are overstretched is that young people who are struggling don't get help soon enough, which means that problems often escalate," she said.

"We often hear from young people who've gone to hospital because they don't know where else to turn. The problem is that A&E can be a crowded and stressful environment, and is often not the most appropriate place for children and young people to go in a crisis.

"That's why the new NHS Long Term Plan must lead to increased funding for children and young people's mental health services, and also a new approach to crisis care."

Bambos Charalambous said: "I have spoken to utterly distressed parents during my constituency surgeries, who have been unable to access crisis care for their children. The Secretary of State's response to me reveals some devastating statistics.

"We have a responsibility to not only provide decent care in times of crisis, but to support our younger generation before they reach crisis point. I hope the government and the NHS take stock and provide the desperately needed funding for children and young people's mental health services."

In a separate survey published by YoungMinds today, based on responses from 1,531 parents whose children have experienced a mental health crisis, 61 per cent of parents described the care that their child received in a crisis as "bad" or "unacceptable".

Meanwhile, 75 per cent agreed that "it would have been helpful for my child to have a safe place to go to while they were in crisis within our local community".

And 86 per cent agreed that "it would have been helpful for my child to have access to support before they reached crisis point."

YoungMinds is calling for more safe places where children and young people can go in a crisis, such as safe havens in the community, so that they are no longer forced to rely on accident and emergency.

For those that do arrive in hospital emergency departments, the charity is calling for dedicated mental health liaison and referral support, so that young people don't end up in a cycle of returning to hospital in a crisis.