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Patients 'struggle to get emergency mental health care'

image captionMind reviewed services from autumn last year until the summer

People with urgent mental health problems are struggling to get emergency treatment in England and Wales, campaigners say.

A review by Mind highlighted a range of difficulties patients face getting help from community crisis teams and hospitals.

Its report said responses were all too often slow or not available at all.

The charity warned the problems were getting worse as the NHS made savings, and urged managers to review services.

Mind chief executive Paul Farmer said: "People experiencing mental health emergencies can be faced with long waits, poor quality care and in some cases are unable to access help at all.

"People told us what they most wanted in crisis wasn't complicated, but simply being able to get treatment when they needed it, therapeutic hospital environments, personal safety, someone to talk to and something to do.

"The sheer simplicity of what is missing shows that there is some way to go before all mental health services are delivering on the fundamentals of good care for people in mental distress."

Bad advice

Mind carried out its review from autumn 2010 to summer 2011. It ran a series of focus groups as well as interviewing and receiving feedback from 400 patients and staff.

The review concentrated on inpatient hospital care, which is provided to 100,000 people a year, and community crisis teams.

Its report said there were examples of good and excellent care, but such standards were far from universal.

Among the issues highlighted were calls to crisis helplines going unanswered and inadequate advice being given - cases highlighted included patients being told to have a warm bath and go for a walk.

In hospitals, patients complained of a lack of access to talking therapies while staff said they were "stressed and overstretched". One psychiatrist said the problems meant some patients ended up deteriorating so much that they ended up killing themselves.

Care Services Minister Paul Burstow said the report had shone a light on "bad and unacceptable" care.

He added that he would be working with Mind to improve services.

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