The number of people referred to mental health trusts in England surged last year even as spending on crisis teams was cut, figures have revealed.
Seven in 10 mental health trusts saw referrals to their mental health community crisis teams increase between 2015 and 2016, with several soaring by more than 30 per cent, including one that took in 61 per cent more referrals than it did the previous year.
The figures, obtained by Radio 5 Live, show that of the 39 trusts that responded, 27 saw a rise in referrals. Eleven of these also saw a drop in funding for their funding on crisis teams.
Campaigners have urged this highlights that there is an increasing number of people reaching "crisis point" who are not receiving required help, and called for a "forward thinking" plan on mental health support to help crisis teams cope with demand.
East London NHS Foundation Trust saw a 61 per cent rise in referrals, while Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust was up 37 per cent, North Staffordshire Combined Healthcare NHS Trust was up 41 per cent and Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust was up 38 per cent.
More than a third of the trusts that saw referrals go up had also had to reduce their spending on their mental health crisis teams the last financial year, sometimes cutting expenditure by more than a fifth.
While North Staffordshire Combined Healthcare NHS Trust saw a 41 per cent rise in referrals between 2015 and 2016, it spent 21 per cent less on their crisis team in the same period.
Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust saw a 38 per cent increase in referrals but spent four per cent less on their teams, and Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust saw a 37 per cent rise in referrals but spent two per cent less on their teams that year.
Mental health crisis teams, or Crisis Resolution and Home Treatment Teams as they're often called, are teams of mental health professionals who respond to calls from people in the community who may be experiencing a mental health crisis.
Responding to the figures, Alison Cobb, Senior Policy Officer at mental health charity Mind, said: “The rising number of referrals to crisis teams is a clear indication of mental health services under pressure and highlights the need for the Five Year Forward View for Mental Health.
“Increased demand for crisis teams means more people in crisis; self-harming, in psychosis or suicidal. We are concerned that people coming forward and seeking help for mental health problems are not getting the support they need early enough, which means they are more likely to become more unwell and reach crisis point.
“Crisis teams are a hugely important part of mental health services and we know that in some areas, crisis care is excellent. But this can only happen if the rest of the system is working, and if they have enough resources to make sure they can cope with demand."
A spokesperson for NHS England said: “NHS investment in mental health services is rising faster than for other services and this includes an additional £400m invested in crisis resolution home treatment teams from this year so that all areas are able to offer 24/7 emergency care to those who need it.”
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