Feeling depressed behind more than 300 A&E trips per day, analysis shows

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Feeling depressed is the main reason behind more than 300 trips to A&E every day in England, new figures suggest.

NHS Digital data shows that, in the year to March, “feeling depressed” was a patient’s main complaint in 114,000 attendances at NHS emergency departments – an average of 312 a day.

Mental health charity Mind said it was “deeply concerning” to see so many people across the country needing emergency care for this reason.

The data analysed by Radar, a data team at the PA news agency that tracks and analyses local statistics, refers to chief complaints.

These are what a clinician views during a patient’s first assessment as the main reason that drove them to seek emergency care. It is not an official diagnosis.

Feeling depressed was the 28th most common reason – out of nearly 150 recorded – for heading to an emergency department nationally in the last year, coming above puncture wounds, back injuries, coughs and sore throats.

Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, in the North West, saw the highest number of A&E attendances for people presenting with feeling depressed as the main symptom (4,785), followed by University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, which recorded 3,950, and Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust, with 2,525.

Different figures show “depressive disorder” was listed as the first suspected or confirmed diagnosis in 83,500 A&E attendances at NHS trusts across the country in 2020 to 2021.

It made it the 25th most common diagnosis out of hundreds recorded.

A patient with this diagnosis may not necessarily have been listed as “feeling depressed” in their initial assessment.

Leila Reyburn, policy and campaigns manager at Mind, said: “It is deeply concerning to see so many people feeling so mentally unwell that they need to go to A&E.

“This is supported by data which shows an increasing number of people, including children, being treated by the NHS in a mental health crisis.

“Many people have seen their mental health worsen during the pandemic, which is why it is vital the Government uses the upcoming Spending Review to fund mental health services, so that people can get help early on, before they find themselves in an emergency.”

The Government said its NHS Mental Health Implementation Plan sets out the need for the mental health workforce to grow by more than 27,000 by 2023-24.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokeswoman said: “It is vital that everyone can get the right support when they need it and we are delivering the fastest expansion in mental health services in NHS history, backed by an additional £2.3 billion a year by 2023-24.

“This will benefit hundreds of thousands more people.”

The spokeswoman added that the Government had spent an extra £500 million to help those whose mental health has been impacted by the pandemic, as well as establishing 24/7 urgent helplines at all NHS mental health providers.

An NHS spokesman said: “As part of the NHS Long Term Plan, the NHS is expanding mental health services, including talking therapy services for people suffering from anxiety and depression.

“If you need help you can self-refer online via NHS.uk/talk, contact one of the urgent 24/7 NHS mental health helplines or access advice on finding ways to improve wellbeing on the Every Mind Matters website.

“In addition, for anyone who needs to attend A&E with mental health needs they should receive expert, compassionate mental health care, with all A&E departments now equipped with specialist mental health liaison teams on site.”

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