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Emergency staff lack empathy for patients in mental health crisis, finds report

A report published by the Care Quality Commission finds A&E staff lack warmth and compassion for people having a mental health crisis

Accident and emergency staff lack warmth and compassion when dealing with people having a mental health crisis, according to a Care Quality Commission (CQC) report. 

A review by the CQC also warns of ‘gaps’ in mental health crisis care and called for better 24-hour support to provide alternatives to A&E for people experiencing a mental health crisis at night.

CQC deputy chief inspector of hospitals Dr Paul Lelliott said: ‘The majority of people who have a mental health crisis experience it out of normal office hours, and so the NHS and our other public services must make sure they are equipped to provide the specialist and urgent care that is needed around the clock.'

As part of the national review, the health regulator inspected mental health crisis care across 12 areas of England and surveyed 1,800 people who have experienced a crisis.

While 86% of respondents felt they had received care and support from charities, only 37% felt their concerns had been taken seriously from emergency staff.

Patients admitted to hospital after self-harming reported ‘poor attitudes’ from staff towards their injuries, the report said.

‘NHS trusts and other commissioners of care must make sure that they place a bigger focus on training staff to look after those having a mental health crisis, no matter where they are or when they need help,’ Dr Lelliott said.

RCN general secretary Peter Carter said: ‘Mental health nurses in particular are experts in providing the care that is needed, and in intervening early so that the most serious symptoms can be avoided.

‘The expertise is out there to avoid the need for crisis care, and to keep people out of distressing situations like A&E, but it needs proper investment in getting the right number of expertly trained staff in the community and in specialist services. Instead, we are seeing worrying reductions among experienced staff which means many people are more unwell by the time they are able to access treatment.

‘It is also very important that mental health expertise and professionals are properly integrated into all the services that may encounter a person in crisis, such as the police.

‘The UK has made great advances in its understanding of mental health conditions, and there is a great deal of compassion and care in many settings, but until we invest in the care that helps at the right time, sadly we will see more people presenting in overstretched emergency departments who are seriously unwell.’

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