An 18-year-old woman with a mental health crisis was forced to wait eight and a half days in the emergency room before going to bed in a psychiatric hospital – believed to be the longest wait in the NHS.
Louise (not her real name) had to be cared for by police and guards and slept in a chair and mattress off the floor in the emergency room of St Helier’s Hospital in Sutton, South London, as there was no bed available was in a mental health facility.
She became increasingly “knocked down, desperate and desperate” as her ordeal continued and as her mental health deteriorated as she waited, she damaged herself by banging her head against a wall. She went into hiding twice because she didn’t know when she would finally start clinical treatment.
The woman’s parents, David and Angela, are so upset by her ordeal that they wrote an account of it for the Guardian. In it, they tell how she and their daughter were told the NHS could not find a bed for her in a mental health facility, either locally or anywhere in England.
Louise arrived in St Helier on Thursday evening, June 16, and was not given a bed in an NHS psychiatric ward until the early hours of Saturday 25 June, more than eight days later. Last year she was diagnosed with an emotionally unstable personality disorder and ADHD.
The mental health charity Mind said it believed it was the longest wait time in the ER ever endured by someone going through a mental health crisis, describing it as “unacceptable, disgraceful and dangerous”. It called for urgent action to address the inadequacy of NHS mental health facilities and bed numbers.
“Waiting eight-and-a-half days in the ER on a psychiatric bed is both unacceptable and outrageous. Mind has never heard of a patient in crisis waiting so long to get the care they need, and serious questions need to be asked about how anyone — let alone an 18-year-old — has survived so long. suffer without the care she needs,” said Rheian Davies, the head of Mind’s legal unit.
“This is dangerous for the staff, who are not trained to provide the acute care that the patient needs, and dangerous for the patient, who needs that care immediately – no more than a week later.
“This should be a red warning light for every person involved in the decision-making that led to this dire situation, from leaders at the trust to the Secretary of State herself. A situation like this is indicative of the difficult situation our mental health services are in,” Davies said.
Chris Grayling, the family MP, told them in a letter when they sought his help that “what you are experiencing is what I believe has been a wrong step of providing inpatient mental health beds. I’ve questioned this over the years, but it’s a long-standing direction of travel among mental health trusts.”
He added: “Your is not the first case of its kind I have come across”.
Surrey and Borders Trust apologized to Louise for her ordeal, saying “severe pressure on our beds” was to blame.
“We strive to support people who need our care and we sincerely apologize when there are occasions when we fail to meet the expectations of people who use our services,” said Lorna Payne, Chief Operating Officer.
“We have experienced severe pressure on our beds in recent weeks and when bed pressures occur, our first priority is to make sure people are safe. We assess the clinical need of each individual.
“Unfortunately, sometimes that means people can wait longer than we would like and sometimes it means asking our partners in the acute hospital sector for help.”
An Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals NHS Trust spokesperson said: “We are sorry that the patient had to wait longer with us than we would all like for a suitable psychiatric bed.
“Our staff have gone out of their way to make her as comfortable as possible in a single private room, whilst we liaise regularly with Surrey and Borders Partnership NHS Foundation Trust to find suitable specialist accommodation, which is not offered in our hospitals.”