A damning report by the Care Quality Commission has found variation and inconsistency in the quality of care given to mental health patients experiencing crisis episodes across England.

Almost 25% of patients surveyed said they did not get the help they needed through their GP, many of which were then forced to seek assistance from other services, including from hospital A&E departments. 

Across all available services, 40% said the care received did not help to deal with their mental health crisis, which can include suicidal intention, showing that far too many patients are being failed by the current system.

Taking a closer look, volunteer/charity services were best able to deal with crisis episodes, with 74% of patients having received help in a timely way, while A&E came out the worst, with just 35%. The figures also reveal much room for improvement from crisis resolution home treatment and community mental health teams, with just 38% and 35% of patients, respectively, having received adequate help from these services.

Lacking compassion and warmth

On a different note, just 34% of patients felt they were treated with warmth and compassion while seeking help in A&E departments, compared with just 52% of those being helped by a community mental health team and 88% a volunteer/charity service.

In summary, the CQC said local authorities, NHS trusts and clinical commissioning groups are failing to work together to make sure people in their areas can access crisis care around the clock, and healthcare professionals can appear to lack compassion and warmth in addressing patients. “This is unsafe, unfair and completely unacceptable,” it stressed.

Paul Lelliott, CQC’s Deputy Chief Inspector of Hospitals (lead for mental health), said the findings should “act as a wake-up call to our public services”, and urged NHS trusts and other commissioners of care to ensure they place “a bigger focus on training staff to look after those having a mental health crisis, no matter where they are or when they need help”.