YP Comment: The plight of the mentally ill

GIVEN the seriousness of the pressures facing the NHS, it's reassuring that nine out of 10 mental health patients receive a follow-up appointment within a week of being discharged from hospital.

PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo.

However the context is critical. Extrapolation of the figures, published by mental health charity Mind, means that at least 11,000 people across the country were not given follow-up care – or the courtesy of a reassuring telephone call.

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These are not patients recovering from fractures, or other injuries and illnesses, where time is the best healer of all. These are fragile individuals, often irrational, whose very vulnerability and torments make them a danger to not only themselves, but to others as well. Given that National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence guidelines clearly state that individuals should be seen again within seven days, or 48 hours if deemed to be a suicide risk, too much is being left to chance. At the very least, all concerned should receive a phone consultation within two days and have the necessary contacts in the event of an emergency.

Yet, with instances of young mental health patients having to travel from Hull to Manchester for treatment, this is another reminder that the Government – and NHS – need to invest significantly more resources in this Cinderella service and reverse previous cuts that were about as short-sighted as Beeching’s blueprint for the railways. It makes sense. Better community care will lessen the burden on hospitals and GP surgeries who will not always possess the psychological skills that patients require. Theresa May accepts this, but there’s clearly much work still to do.