Advising with empathy and experience

Mental health crisis.

People in England who need urgent mental health care are receiving inadequate support, The Care Quality Commission (CQC) says.

The CQC reviewed the help given to people in mental health crisis, including those who feel suicidal, are having serious panic attacks or psychotic episodes.

The CQC report said that the system was "struggling to cope" and also highlighted what it called a "lack of compassion" from A&E staff.

An investigation was carried out by the CQC following the signing of a Crisis Care Concordat between the government and the sector in 2014, which promised round-the-clock support to those in need. The Concordat also includes help from dedicated mental health staff, intensive support at home or telephone advice.

But the CQC review - based on patient surveys, analysis of national data and inspections of services - found that 42% of patients did not get the help they needed.

Patients were also asked about the attitudes of staff. Those working for charities and volunteers received the most positive ratings, while A&E staff received the worst. Just more than a third of patients who went to A&E thought they had been treated with compassion and warmth, and a similar proportion said their concerns had been taken seriously.

The dedicated crisis-resolution teams, which help those in trouble, fared little better, with fewer than half answering positively to each question.

The report also highlighted the experiences of a number of patients. One said: "It was approximately seven hours before I got crisis support and that was only a call not a visit, which would have been more useful.  As my crisis worsened, I took a small overdose as I was not coping or getting any immediate help."

CQC's mental health lead, Dr Paul Lelliott, said while there were some excellent examples of care, the findings must "act as a wake-up call".

He said: "Worryingly many people told us that, when they were having a crisis, they often felt the police and ambulance crews were more caring and took their concerns more seriously than the medical and mental health professionals they encountered."