2,000 patients visit A&E because they are feeling depressed

Ipswich and West Suffolk signs in as well as A&E entrance.

New NHS figures show that on average across the country 312 trips a day to A&E were in relation to feeling depressed. - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown/Simon Parker

More than 2,000 patients said feeling depressed was the main reason behind going to A&E in Suffolk and North Essex. 

On average there were 312 trips a day to A&Es across England in the year up to March because of depression according to NHS Digital data, which recorded 114,000 attendances related to feeling depressed.

East Suffolk and North Essex Foundation Trust (ESNEFT) ranked 17th out of 146 trusts for this reason with 1,500 admissions.  

At West Suffolk Hospital, 520 people attended the emergency department because they were feeling depressed, ranking it 81st in the country.

Ipswich and Colchester hospitals have no front line staff refusing to have a Covid vaccine.

ESNEFT which runs Ipswich Hospital saw the 17th highest number of trips for depression to A&E. - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

An ESNEFT spokesman said: "We are one of the largest trusts in the East of England and serve a community of almost one million people.

"We also care for people in some of the most deprived areas of the country. Dr Angela Tillett, our chief medical officer has set up a task force about health inequalities and a strong focus for this work is how we can, together with all our partners provide more well-being support. This includes social prescribing and support to be more active.

"We did see an increase in mental health presentations following the national pandemic and this probably related to a change in their routine with lockdown and social isolation. All patients that attend the Emergency Department are treated holistically prioritising their needs and creating a smoother journey through our care."

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A trust spokesman said a person may present themselves to A&E for their mental health in a number of ways including as an individual, on the advice of a mental health service, or brought in by police concerned for their welfare or by being detained.

Patients will be triaged by staff until a mental health liaison team from Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust (NSFT) or North East London NHS Foundation Trust (NELFT) are available to assess.

Amy Eagle, interim chief operating officer at NSFT, said "It is vital that everyone can get the right support for their mental health when they need it. Anyone who needs to attend A&E with mental health needs will receive expert, compassionate mental health care, from our specialist mental health liaison teams on-site."

NSFT runs a mental health acute liaison service across Norfolk and Suffolk offering specialist mental health care and assessment care. 

The trust said staffing is adjusted to meet need in busy periods and plans are being developed to take attendance and admission away from A&E. 

The NHS figures showed nationally feeling depressed was the 28th most common reason - out of nearly 150 - for attending A&E, coming above wounds, back injuries, coughs and sore throats.

Regionally, feeling depressed was not within the top 10 reasons at either ESNEFT or West Suffolk Hospital. 

West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds. Photograph Simon Parker

West Suffolk Hospital reported 500 trips to March in relation to depression. - Credit: Archant

At ESNEFT,  more than 13,000 people attended A&E for an upper extremity injury in the last year, with abdominal pain and chest pain and injury to lower extremities reporting more than 12,000 trips each. 

At West Suffolk, the top reason for A&E attendances was abdominal pain. 

Different figures show “depressive disorder” was listed as the first suspected or confirmed diagnosis in 83,500 A&E attendances at NHS trusts across the country in 2020 to 2021. 

One Ipswich mother, who has asked to remain anonymous, said she is scared to have more children afte

Patients are triaged and assessed by staff prior to seeing a member of the mental health liaison team. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

It made it the 25th most common diagnosis out of hundreds recorded. 

A patient with this diagnosis may not necessarily have been listed as “feeling depressed” in their initial assessment. 

Mental health charity Mind said it was "deeply concerning" to see the levels of people across the country needing emergency care. 

Leila Reyburn, policy and campaigns manager at Mind, said: “It is deeply concerning to see so many people feeling so mentally unwell that they need to go to A&E. 

“This is supported by data which shows an increasing number of people, including children, being treated by the NHS in a mental health crisis. 

“Many people have seen their mental health worsen during the pandemic, which is why it is vital the Government uses the upcoming Spending Review to fund mental health services, so that people can get help early on, before they find themselves in an emergency.” 

The government promises to grow the mental health workforce by more than 27,000 by 2024.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said the Government had spent an extra £500 million to help those whose mental health has been impacted by the pandemic, as well as establishing 24/7 urgent helplines at all NHS mental health providers. 

If you need help and support, call Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust’s First Response helpline 0808 196 3494 or the Samaritans on 116 123. Both services are available 24 hours 7 days a week. You can also download the Stay Alive app on Apple & Android.

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