Summary of report content
At the request of the NHS England East of England Urgent and Emergency Care Network, Healthwatch Norfolk researched the experience of getting help for mental health crises from the perspective of patients, their families and care providers. They heard from 686 service users. The work started in December 2016 and finished in May 2017.
They found that around 60% were able to plan ahead for times of crisis to some extent but 40% were not. Some people didn’t know who to contact if they experienced a crisis.
The report paints a very mixed picture of people’s experiences of services during a mental health crisis. The services that people were most likely to rate as “very good” or “quite good” are GPs (55%), community pharmacies (41%), ambulances and paramedics (34%) and A&E departments (31%). The services people were most likely to rate as “quite poor” or “very poor” are NHS community mental health services (41%) and GPs (24%).
Some people wanted a ‘fast-track’ into mental health services during a time of crisis. Whilst there is a local Crisis Resolution Home Treatment team, in practice this doesn’t work for everyone. Whilst many people were getting help and support from services provided by community and voluntary organisations which they found valuable, they were worried that they might be a replacement for good quality NHS mental health care.
The report concludes that mental health crisis services are under-resourced and over-stretched, and this issue requires urgent attention. Crisis care plans are important and more people want to have one. Messages on who to contact and where to go in a crisis need to be clear and consistent. Some people and services are especially good at making mental health service users and carers feel safe, welcome and well-cared for and others could learn from them to improve their own services.