'Simply too long to wait for help': Cheshire and Wirral mental health patients at risk from follow-up delays

Reporter:

Staff reporter (Chester Standard)

MORE than 200 patients did not receive a follow-up call or visit within seven days of their discharge from mental health hospitals in Cheshire and Wirral last year.

Bosses at charity Mind say this is the crucial time-frame when people are twice as likely to commit suicide, a third more likely to self-harm and twice as likely to end up in an A&E department.

The organisation submitted requests for information from all mental health NHS trusts in England and Wales and discovered that 11,000 did not receive a follow-up check within a week of discharge in 2015/16.

Cheshire and Wirral Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (CWP), which runs facilities, including Bowmere Hospital and Ancora House in Chester, discharged a total of 1,653 patients over 12 months.

Of these, 1,449 received a follow-up within seven days – which equates to 88 per cent – but 204 did not.

Mind is now calling on the Government to impose strict new guidelines to ensure everyone who has undergone a mental health crisis receives a follow-up within 48 hours.

Currently the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommends 48-hour follow-ups only in come cases.

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.” 

She added: “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 a 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.” 

Professor Louis Appleby, director of National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and Homicide, said: “People leaving hospital can feel unsupported as they return to the problems that may have led to their admission. Those first few days are the time of highest suicide risk – follow up within seven days has helped but we now need to go further. This is probably the most important single step a service can take to improve patient safety.”

In response, CWP has said it is working towards hitting the 48-hour follow-up standard and stressed that the vast majority of patients have received contact within seven days in the past two years.

Medical director Dr Anushta Sivananthan said: “CWP recognises the importance of supporting patients beyond discharge and we ensure as many of our service users as possible are receiving important follow-up appointments within seven days of receiving care.

“More than 98 per cent of known service users who have accessed our inpatient services in the last two years have received a follow-up appointment within seven days of their discharge.

“Those service users accessing our Home Treatment Teams can be seen the same day as their discharge. We are working towards delivering the 48 hour follow-up standard across all of our services.”

See full story in the Chester Leader

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