• Acute trusts expected to be told they cannot keep mental health patients who are waiting for a bed or assessment within A&E departments
  • Follows risk summit held by national regulators over high levels of mental health trolley breaches in Lancashire

Acute trusts are expected to be told they cannot keep mental health patients who are waiting for a bed or assessment within their accident and emergency department, HSJ has learned.

There are understood to be discussions ongoing at a national level about ways in which to avoid mental health patients being kept within accident and emergency when waiting for admission to a mental health bed.

Regulators have been particularly concerned about 12-hour breaches for mental health patients in Lancashire, and, in recent weeks, held a risk summit with providers to help address the problem.

Several senior sources told HSJ there are new temporary protocols now being introduced in the county that include greater consideration of admission to a general acute bed.

And it is understood that national leaders are discussing the potential to deploy similar measures in other areas.

In a statement, Lancashire and South Cumbria Integrated Care System told HSJ:There are ongoing discussions between mental health and acute providers and commissioners in relation to operational pressures for patients who are presenting to emergency departments.

“Providers are having further discussions and any admissions will be supported by a joint operational protocol, which will include giving consideration to the admission to a general acute bed.”

The news follows an NHS England proposal to have national targets for urgent and emergency mental healthcare.

The targets propose new standards for the time in which a mental health patient needing urgent or emergency treatment should receive an assessment and be seen by a mental health team.

However, the standard does not cover the time in which a patient should have a Mental Health Act assessment, if one is needed, or how long the wait should be for admission into an acute mental health bed.

For someone to be detained under the Mental Health Act, they would need to be assessed by three clinicians, including an approved mental health professional employed by the local authority.

Multiple emergency care consultants, speaking anonymously with HSJ, said some patients needing admission to a mental health bed can be left waiting for days within their A&Es.

NHS England was approached for comment.