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A&E visits by young people with mental health problems have almost doubled in five years

The figures have been called ‘alarming’ by mental health charity YoungMinds

Sarah Young
Thursday 25 October 2018 09:27 BST
A&E visits by young people with mental health problems have rocketed
A&E visits by young people with mental health problems have rocketed (Getty/iStock)

The number of young people going to A&E with mental health problems has almost doubled in five years, official figures show.

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

This figure has almost doubled since 2012-13, when there were 13,800 equivalent attendances, and almost tripled since 2010.

The findings coincide with a survey by mental health charity YoungMinds, which revealed that 61 per cent of parents said the care their child received in crisis was “bad” or “unacceptable.”

The survey of 1,531 parents also found that 75 per cent felt it would have been helpful if their child had a safe place to go to within their community while they were in crisis.

Meanwhile 86 per cent said it would have been helpful if their child had access to support before they reached crisis point.

Emma Thomas, chief executive of YoungMinds, said: “It is alarming that there has been such a sharp rise in young people arriving in A&E needing support for their mental health.

“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. We often hear from young people who’ve gone to A&E 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.”

In light of the figures, YoungMinds is now 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 A&E.

For those that do arrive in A&E, 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 A&E in a crisis.

Bambos Charalambous, the MP who submitted the Parliamentary Question, added: “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."

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