Risk of suicides increased by 'tragic' lack of follow-up on mental health care

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One in ten people admitted to hospital for a mental health crisis are not getting followed-up on quickly enough, according to data revealed by mental health charity Mind.

Follow up – usually a face-to-face visit or a phone call – provides continued contact and ensures that ongoing support is in place. Figures released by Mind show at least 11,000 people every year are going without appropriate follow-up.

Mind sent Freedom of Information requests to all 56 mental health trusts in England, of which 54 trusts responded, asking for information about how quickly people are followed up after being discharged from hospital.

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. Evidence from the National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and Homicide shows of all patients who died in the first week after discharge, most were on day three.

Mind’s director of external relations Sophie Corlett 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.

‘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.’

At the moment, NICE recommends follow-up within 48 hours for some patients only. Following on from its revelations, Mind is calling for this timeframe to extend to everyone leaving hospital after a mental health crisis.

Mind said its findings show the lack of appropriate follow-up is putting significant pressure on the NHS. Patients not followed up within seven days were more than twice as likely to end up in A&E as a result of their mental health within the first week of being discharged.

Data from the NHS shows that on average more than one in twenty people (6.5%) with mental health problems who are discharged from hospital are readmitted within 30 days.

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