Concerns over support for discharged mental health patients

North London mental health meeting hears about “escalating” issue of provision for patients being discharged, reports Grace Howarth, Local Democracy Reporter

Barnet, Enfield and Haringey Mental Health NHS Trust
Barnet, Enfield and Haringey Mental Health NHS Trust

A lack of suitable accommodation and follow-ups for discharged mental health patients has raised concern among councillors across North London.

North Central London joint health overview and scrutiny committee chair Pippa Connor acknowledged there was a huge amount of “incredible positive and excellent” updates from Barnet, Enfield and Haringey Mental Health NHS Trust (BEH) and Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust (C&I), but due to the nature of scrutiny meetings had to focus on concerns. 

During the meeting yesterday (Thursday 30th) she asked about the provision of support for people with severe mental health issues after being discharged. 

Cllr Connor referenced a previous target that the NHS leads had made long-term, to use a joined-up approach with local authorities, particularly around housing, to support patient discharges. 

Chief medical officer for BEH and C&I Vincent Kirchner said the short answer was “no”. 

He said: “We are in communication with our local authority colleagues, but no there’s been no real movement in a significant way.

“What I would say is the problem is escalating, we have more and more people on our wards who are clinically ready for a discharge, waiting for a discharge and don’t have somewhere to go to. 

“As a system we do need to work on it, I’m not sure we would be able to divert NHS funding to housing, that would be a difficult conversation.”

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Andrew Wright, chief of staff at BEH, said there was a significant amount of “energy of effort” from borough’s divisional management team, working closely with local authority colleagues, but the fundamental problem was there just wasn’t the “suitable accommodation available” and everybody was “competing for it”. 

Committee member Larraine Revah asked about follow-ups for recently discharged patients, especially council tenants. She said her borough, Camden, had a “high level” of mental health issues and she found it “extremely difficult” to help people “quickly enough”. 

She said it wasn’t always easy knowing who to contact due to “protocol” and asked whether the bosses worked with safer housing departments to ensure follow-ups happened and complaints from neighbours reduced. 

Vincent said creating neighbourhood teams that worked in an integrated way, with primary care, local authority, voluntary sector, and NHS professionals was the “vehicle” they wanted to create. 

He acknowledged there was still a “way to go” and this reliance on community teams over GPs or crisis lines was “very much” still in development. 

Some positive news the BEH leads announced was the confirmation of the name of the new partnership between BEH and C&I, ‘The North London Mental Health Partnership’, which Amanda Pithouse, chief nursing officer at BEH and C&I, confirmed was “on course” to be begin on 1st October. 

She also confirmed the 78-bed mental health inpatient facility in Islington, Highgate East, opened in April. 

A new mental health crisis assessment service, a 24/7 emergency service to “avoid people going to accident and emergency and presenting there” had  also recently opened at Highgate West. 

Along with this. a new state-of-the-art integrated community centre had opened at 1 Lowther Road in Islington.

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