Approved social workers face long delays in hospital admissions for people with severe mental health problems

People with mental health problems so severe they may be a risk to themselves or others are waiting up to two weeks to be admitted to hospital, approved social workers have revealed.

In a submission to the committee debating the Mental Health Bill, the ASW Leads Network says approved social workers face long waits, particularly in London, for police support to enter people’s property in order to carry out Mental Health Act assessments.

Admitting people to hospital under section is also delayed by an “acute shortage of beds” in some mental health trusts, and requests for an ambulance to transport the patient to hospital are constantly being “knocked down the list of priorities”.

One ASW quoted in the document said police response times for higher-risk clients were longer than for lower-risk ones. And in one case a service user who had made a specific threat against someone actually assaulted them in the week it took to get him assessed and sectioned.

The network’s national co-ordinator, Claire Barcham, said waits of up to two weeks for police support were common in London, but times varied across the country.

She added: “Admission of people to hospital is a complicated issue. It can depend on police support, it certainly depends on support to convey people to hospital and bed availability. If these three things don’t work well then the whole process can become very strained.”

Barcham called for the bill to introduce targets for the NHS on admitting people to hospital under section to encourage it to develop good protocols and relationships with other agencies and make more beds available.

NHS Confederation policy director Nigel Edwards said more targets were not the answer but standards might be welcome.

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