A&Es hit by children’s mental health crisis

The dire state of care for children with mental illnesses is revealed today, as figures show the numbers arriving at A&E departments with psychiatric conditions has risen to nearly 20,000 a year –more than double the number four years ago.

Experts say a chief cause is an absence of out-of-hours community care for vulnerable under-18s, with children being advised to attend A&E after 5pm. The scale of the problem is proving to be a significant extra burden on already struggling emergency departments. The NHS recorded the highest ever number of A&E attendances, and 111 and ambulance calls over the last 12 months.

According to official data released yesterday, total emergency admissions via major A&E departments have also risen by 44% between 2004-05 and 2014-15, prompting NHS England to appeal for people who can do so to stay away from A&E over the busy new year period.

Professor Keith Willett, the national clinical director for acute care, said: “A&E experiences a surge in the days following Christmas and the new year. Younger, fitter people can help our hardworking NHS doctors and nurses by only attending if it’s absolutely necessary.”

The number of attendances of children at A&E with psychiatric conditions is up 8% to 18,673 in 2014-15, compared with 17,278 last year. That is double the 9,328 total of 2010-11. The number then going on to hospital wards has also risen: last year there were 12,309 admissions of under-18s in which the primary diagnosis was “mental and behavioural disorders”, against 12,126 the previous year.

Full story in The Guardian 26 December 2015