“High-risk” mental health patients are having to wait “weeks” before being admitted to hospital due to bed shortages and unavailability of police officers, a report has said.
Inspectors from NHS watchdog the Care Quality Commission (CQC) found problems at Maudsley and other south-east London mental health hospitals, in getting vulnerable patients admitted against their will.
The CQC report, published on October 31, said there were “increased delays” in 2017, partly because there were “limited time slots” to book police officers needed to “execute warrants” on patients at their homes to get them to hospital.
Inspectors who interviewed medical professionals at Maudsley reported that this had a knock-on effect on finding beds for high-risk patients who needed a mental health assessment.
The report added: “In Southwark, where the social workers were no longer part of the community teams, there were additional delays due to arranging an approved mental health professional to coincide with the police being present.
“Staff gave an example of waiting 25 days to complete an assessment for a patient who presented a risk to themselves and others.”
Across the South London Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust (SLaM) area, there were seventeen incidents in six months where high-risk patients faced delays in receiving their mental health assessment. Nine of these cases were blamed solely on a lack of beds.
“Community teams were sometimes supporting very high-risk patients who needed urgent assessment because an inpatient bed was not available over a number of days or weeks. This presented a significant risk to patients’ safety while they waited for an assessment,” the report said.
These findings were from the CQC report which specifically looked at SLaM’s community-based mental health services. The report downgraded the services from “good” to “requires improvement”.
It was also found that, across four boroughs, 26 per cent of patients had risk-assessment-and-management plans that were incomplete, but that in Southwark the rate was much worse, at 38 per cent.
However the Trust’s overall delivery of mental health services still has a “good” rating, as per its last all-round review in 2015.
And despite the issues the inspectors encountered, they judged that hospital bosses in charge of community-based mental health services were well-led, because managers “were already aware of the issues found relating to risk assessments and care plans, and were working actively to address them”.
A SLaM spokesperson said: “Safe and compassionate care is a priority for everyone at our Trust. We welcome the CQC’s report and note that it highlights many areas of good practice in our community services for adults of a working age, including giving us a ‘good’ rating in the area of being caring.
“We are grateful to our staff who work constantly to improve the care we provide. We recognise that we still need to improve in areas highlighted by the CQC.”