Revealed: the mental health patients leaving hospital in Cornwall without a follow-up.
Figures from mental health charity, Mind, show it was 12 in the Duchy between 2015 and 2016.
The charity warns it can be the difference between life and death.
Spokesman Jeff Hayes said: “When they are discharged from hospital, it’s really important that they get the right care and support to help them recover and get their lives back together once they leave hospital.
“What we do know is that people are especially vulnerable during the first few days after being discharged and it’s the time when they’re most likely to take their own life.
“It’s checking in with people to make sure they’re getting the right care from the community services that they’re meant to be getting.
“But it’s also just to check-in that the transition has gone OK because we know that went that doesn’t happen, a survey of people who’ve been through this experience shows they’re twice as likely to attempt suicide”.
26-year-old Natalie from Somerset was in hospital after reaching crisis point and attempting to take her own life.
She said: “When I was discharged I didn’t get any follow up from the hospital itself and it was a week until a crisis team came to visit me.
“When you’re that unwell, it’s hard getting through each day. Each hour is tough, so just 24 hours can feel like such a long time. I needed someone to talk to, to help me understand my thoughts and feelings. To only see someone after a week, it’s not enough”.
How can I talk to my GP about mental health?
Across the UK, figures show that one in ten people discharged from mental health hospital after being admitted in crisis is not getting follow-up within a week of leaving, which is at least 11 thousand people every year.
Mind sent Freedom of Information requests to all 56 mental health trusts in England asking for information about how quickly people are followed up after being discharged from hospital.
Follow up – usually a face-to-face visit or a phone call – provides continued contact and ensures that the right ongoing support is in place.
National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (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.
In fact, more recent evidence from the National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and Homicide shows of all patients who died in the first week after discharge, the highest number occurred on day three.
There is growing recognition of the urgent need for timelier follow-up as a key suicide prevention measure, with both the Inquiry and the House of Commons Health Select Committee recently calling for earlier follow-up after discharge.
Current NICE guidelines recommend follow-up within 48 hours for some patients only. Mind is calling for this 48 hour timeframe to extend to everyone leaving hospital after a mental health crisis.
Sophie Corlett, Director of External Relations at Mind, 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% in the next five years. Timelier follow-up for patients after they leave hospital could help achieve this.
“If you don’t get the right care after you leave, if you’re left to cope alone, you can end up in a revolving door going straight back in to hospital or be at risk of taking your own life. 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.
“Whether you’ve been in hospital for days or for months, when you come out you need the right care and support to help you stay well. A vital part of this is having someone make early contact with you to make sure you’re ok and getting the ongoing support you need. Seven days is simply too long to wait when someone’s recovery is still at risk. We need to see a reduction of the follow-up time to 48 hours now”.
Professor Louis Appleby, Director of National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and Homicide, said: “People leaving hospital can feel unsupported as they return to the problems that may have led to their admission. Those first few days are the time of highest suicide risk – follow up within seven days has helped but we now need to go further. This is probably the most important single step a service can take to improve patient safety”.
In a statement, Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust said there could be a number of reasons why follow-ups were not carried out, including a patient not wanting one.
They said: “There are a variety of reasons why patients are not able to receive a follow-up visit from the Trust after discharge.
“These include; patients choosing not to, or discharging themselves from the service; others may have personal circumstances which make it impossible for the Trust to remain in contact with them”.
Celebrities are backing calls to ‘change the conversation’ about mental health…