By Isha Sesay • 10 December 2019 • 8:50
The NHS is struggling to cope with record demand and social care services are stretched to the limit
THE NHS crisis has been laid bare as a leaked email has revealed a series of cases where children were forced to wait lengthy periods of time in accident and emergency departments for hospital beds.
Last week, a 12-year-old girl with learning disabilities and mental health issues had to stay in an Essex hospital A&E for 57 hours for a specialist bed to become available. She was one of four children left “in the middle of an emergency department” because of a shortage in beds.
On December 5, Brian Kennedy, a Mid Essex Hospitals A&E Consultant, sent a desperate email obtained by The Independent to colleagues asking for help. He said he felt the need tp “highlight concerns” around the 12-year-old girl who at the time of his email had already been in the A&E for 44 hours and 20 minutes.
He said she was one of four mental health patients waiting in the department, and that another vulnerable adult with significant learning difficulties had been at A&E for 18 hours. He added that as wonderful as the staff are, they are unable to offer optimal environment for patients with mental health illnesses.
A source at the Mid Essex trust also reaffirmed the plight of the NHS saying that it was not only unacceptable that were no available beds for the child, but that there was a lack of engagement from NHS England and the mental health trust in finding a solution. They added that this will result in damaging a child who is forced to live in the middle of an emergency department as they wait for a bed.
In response to the incident Andy Brogan, Chief Operating Officer at Essex Partnership University Foundation Trust, said:
“On 5 December all our mental health inpatient beds for children and young people were full, and we were unable to admit any other patients. Bed availability varies on a daily basis; we work with commissioners and other partners to keep them appraised of the situation to ensure patients can be moved closer to home as soon as possible.”
NHS England had pledged to end the practice of sending patients miles from their home towns for a mental health bed by 2021. However, according to the Royal College of Psychiatrists, since 1987-88 the number of mental health beds in England has fallen by 73 per cent from about 67,100 to 18,400. It also indicated that patients are either sent hundreds of miles away for an available bed, or are forced to wait which then delays other patients.
The national shortage of mental health beds mean that patients can be sent hundreds of miles away to a different hospital, or are forced to wait which then delays other patients.
The news comes after a photograph showed 4-year-old Jack Williment-Barr sleeping on the floor of a Leeds hospital with suspected pneumonia. Another child also had to wait 17 hours in A&E over the weekend at Birmingham Children’s Hospital.
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