Mental health crisis as 300 people a day go to A&E with depression

·2-min read
A&E - David Cliff/NurPhoto via Getty Images
A&E - David Cliff/NurPhoto via Getty Images

More than 300 people a day are attending A&E departments complaining of depression, according to NHS figures, amid concerns over access to GPs.

NHS Digital data show that, in the year to March, "feeling depressed" was a patient's main complaint in 114,000 attendances at NHS emergency departments in England – an average of 312 a day.

Mind, the mental health charity, said it was "deeply concerning" that so many people across the country were turning to emergency care.

The data refers to chief complaints, which a clinician views during a patient's first assessment as the main reason that led them to seek emergency care. It is not an official diagnosis.

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

It comes amid increasing concern over difficulties accessing face-to-face GP appointments for some patients. Around 80 per cent of consultations took place in a doctors' surgery pre-pandemic. But the latest monthly figure is just 58 per cent, with little change since officials vowed in May to give all patients the right to a face-to-face appointment.

The Telegraph previously reported that the number of children attending A&E with mental health problems had increased by more than 50 per cent since the Covid pandemic.

Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, in the North West, saw the highest number of A&E attendances for people presenting with feeling depressed as their 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 this year, making it the 25th most common diagnosis of hundreds recorded.

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

Leila Reyburn, the 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."

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 spokesman 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."

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