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Patients waiting the equivalent of 624 years for mental health treatment in England's A&Es

NEW figures have shown that people waited a staggering 5.4 million hours in England’s A&E units for mental health treatment last year.

The figures, amounting to the equivalent of patients waiting 624 years, were obtained by the Labour Party through freedom of information requests to NHS trusts.

The greatest hours waited were to be found in the Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust, where patients waited for just over one million hours in 2021-22, closely followed by London’s King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust on 851,375 hours, and Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals Trust on 654,397 hours.

On hearing the figures, Sane chief executive and founder Marjorie Wallace underlined the importance of swift support for those suffering a mental health crisis.

She said: “For people in mental health crisis, who may be in denial or extreme fear, waiting in A&E can increase their despair and they lose faith that they will get help.

“We are aware of cases where, because of long waits, patients leave without being seen or receiving the care they urgently need while still at risk of self-harm or suicide.”

Keep Our NHS Public co-chair and retired consultant paediatrician Dr John Puntius challenged Labour to reverse Tory cuts.

He said: “The crisis is mental healthcare was exacerbated by the Covid pandemic, with the current stark reality illustrated by these figures.

“Labour needs to commit not only to more staff (24,000 left in 2017/18) but also an NHS where pay and working conditions encourage recruitment and retention.

“Investment is needed to bring back some of the 3,000 mental health beds lost over the last decade, and restore cuts to budgets such as the £26m lost from youth addiction services.”

Labour’s shadow cabinet minister for mental health Dr Rosena Allin-Khan, herself an A&E doctor, said: “Mental healthcare was already playing catch-up. Sadly services are now on their knees.

“The government must formulate a plan to bring down backlogs and ensure that patients get access to the vital care that they so desperately need.

“Labour has a truly preventative plan for mental health services that will put patient care first.

“We will guarantee mental health treatment within a month for all who need it, by recruiting thousands of new mental health [workers], paid for by closing tax loopholes.”

The Department for Health and Social Care was contacted for comment.

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