11,000 mental health patients not receiving follow-ups, Mind warns

Figures released by Mind have shown that one in ten people (11,000) discharged from mental health hospitals after being admitted in crisis are not getting a follow-up within a week of leaving.

The data was collected via Freedom of Information (FoI) requests, which were sent to all 56 mental health trusts in England (54 trusts responded) asking for information about how quickly people are followed up after being discharged from hospital.

A follow up appointment, which usually involves a face-to-face visit or a phone call, provides continued contact and ensures that the right ongoing support is in place. 

National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) guidelines currently state that all patients should be followed up within seven days because people are at high risk of post-discharge suicide in the first week. 

However, there is growing recognition of the urgent need for timelier follow-up as a key suicide prevention measure, with the National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and Homicide showing of all patients who died in the first week after discharge, the highest number occurred on day three.

The study also included a survey of over 850 people which showed that those who weren’t followed up appropriately were twice as likely to attempt suicide and a third more likely to harm themselves compared to respondents who said they were followed up within seven days of being discharged.

Mind has called for reduce the seven day limit to a 48 hour time frame for everyone leaving hospital after a mental health crisis.

Sophie Corlett, director of external relations at Mind, said: "Thousands of people with mental health problems in England and Wales are not getting the appropriate follow-up when they are first discharged from hospital. This is not good enough. It is a tragedy that so many people so very recently leaving the care of hospital are losing their lives.  

"The government has put suicide prevention as a key patient safety issue for the NHS as a whole and pledged to reduce suicides by 10 per cent in the next five years. Timelier follow-up for patients after they leave hospital could help achieve this. 

"If you don’t get the right care after you leave, if you’re left to cope alone, you can end up in a revolving door going straight back in to hospital or be at risk of taking your own life. We are calling for NICE to update its guidance and hold local mental health trusts in England and Health Boards in Wales to account so that every person that leaves hospital after a mental health crisis gets follow-up within 48 hours.

"Whether you’ve been in hospital for days or for months, when you come out you need the right care and support to help you stay well. A vital part of this is having someone make early contact with you to make sure you’re ok and getting the ongoing support you need. Seven days is simply too long to wait when someone’s recovery is still at risk. We need to see a reduction of the follow-up time to 48 hours now."

Dr Paul Brown, of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: "These figures paint an alarming picture of a system under intense and increased pressure. We hear reports of personnel struggling even to find the time to pick up the phone to follow up on recently discharged patients. It is absolutely vital that we see money promised by the government going to the frontline. 

"We know that a person who is released from hospital after a mental health crisis is most vulnerable in the days directly following discharge.

We should absolutely be aware of how to help to eliminate avoidable suicide deaths. The College will be supportive of any new standards and processes to ensure local services are making contact and offering additional support to this group of people within the first days after they have returned to the community."

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