A&E attendances by young people with psychiatric conditions almost doubled in five years - new figures

A&E attendances by young people with psychiatric conditions almost doubled in five years - new figures

There has been a steep rise in the number of young people aged 18 or under arriving at A&E departments in England with psychiatric conditions, according to new figures released this week.

There has been a steep rise in the number of young people aged 18 or under arriving at A&E departments in England with psychiatric conditions, according to new figures released this week.

In answer to a Parliamentary Question from Bambos Charalambous MP, the Department of Health and Social Care has revealed that, in 2017-18, there were 27,487 attendances in A&E by young people aged 18 or under with a recorded diagnosis of a psychiatric condition. This figure has almost doubled since 2012-13, when there were 13,800 equivalent attendances, and almost tripled since 2010. [1]

Emma Thomas, Chief Executive of YoungMinds, said: “It is alarming that there has been such a sharp rise in young people arriving in A&E needing support for their mental health.

"One of the main reasons that crisis services are overstretched is that young people who are struggling don't get help soon enough, which means that problems often escalate. We often hear from young people who’ve gone to A&E because they don’t know where else to turn.

“The problem is that A&E can be a crowded and stressful environment, and is often not the most appropriate place for children and young people to go in a crisis. That’s why the new NHS Long Term Plan must lead to increased funding for children and young people’s mental health services, and also a new approach to crisis care.”

Bambos Charalambous, the MP who submitted the Parliamentary Question, said: “I have spoken to utterly distressed parents during my constituency surgeries, who have been unable to access crisis care for their children. The Secretary of State’s response to me reveals some devastating statistics.

“We have a responsibility to not only provide decent care in times of crisis, but to support our younger generation before they reach crisis point. I hope the Government and the NHS take stock and provide the desperately needed funding for children and young people’s mental health services.”

YoungMinds is also today publishing results from a survey with 1,531 parents whose children have experienced a mental health crisis:

  • 61% of parents described the care that their child received in a crisis as “bad” or “unacceptable”.
  • 75% agreed that “it would have been helpful for my child to have a safe place to go to while they were in crisis within our local community”.
  • 65% agreed that “It would have been helpful for me or my child to have access to a mental health crisis telephone hotline”.
  • 86% agreed that “it would have been helpful for my child to have access to support before they reached crisis point.” [2]

YoungMinds is calling for more safe places where children and young people can go in a crisis, such as safe havens in the community, so that they are no longer forced to rely on A&E. For those that do arrive in A&E, the charity is calling for dedicated mental health liaison and referral support, so that young people don’t end up in a cycle of returning to A&E in a crisis.

The charity is also campaigning for increased funding for children and young people’s mental health services alongside the forthcoming NHS Long Term Plan, and improved early intervention for young people through youth and community groups. More than 12,000 people have signed its petition calling for a new era for young people’s mental health.

[1] https://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-question/Commons/2018-10-18/181292/

Department of Health and Social Care

Mental Illness: Children and Young People

The following table shows the number of attendances at accident and emergency (A&E) departments by patients aged 18 and under with a recorded first diagnosis of psychiatric conditions, those where the recorded patient group is 'intentional self harm' and those where both criteria appear, from 2010/11 to 2017/18. Attendances do not represent the number of patients, as a person may attend a National Health Service hospital on more than one occasion within the period.

Count of A&E attendances for patients aged 18 and under

Notes to Editors

  1. Attendances do not represent the number of patients, as a person may attend an NHS hospital on more than one occasion within the period.
  2. The recording of the diagnosis field within the A&E data set is not mandatory.
  3. HES figures are available from 2007-08 onwards. Changes to the figures over time should be interpreted in the context of improvements in data quality and coverage and changes in NHS practice. For example, changes in activity may be due to changes in the provision of care.
  4. All figures, unless otherwise stated, are taken from a YoungMinds survey hosted on surveygizmo.eu in August 2018, and promoted through social media. There were 1,531 responses from parents of children and young people in the UK up to the age of 25 whose children had experienced a mental health crisis.
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