Mental health-related 999 calls have soared by up to 20 per cent in the past three years in the EastLondonLines boroughs, revealing the mounting pressure on ambulance services in London.
London Ambulance Service, which is the busiest emergency ambulance service in the UK, said that it had experienced a jump of more than 18,000 calls from people with mental health concerns from across the capital between 2012 and 2015.
Of the EastLondonLines boroughs, Croydon saw the biggest increase, 20 per cent, having taken 6,470 mental health calls in the period between April 2014 and 2015 by comparison with 5,393 calls between April 2012 and 2013.
Tower Hamlets followed with a 17 per cent rise, with Hackney witnessing a 16 per cent increase and Lewisham a 14 per cent increase.
The sharp rise has prompted mental health charity Mind to call for preventative measures and investment in specialist care to reduce the number of people reaching crisis point in the first place.
The charity believes this to be the best option for patients, the economy and for the already “hard pressed” emergency services.
Sophie Corlett, director of external relations for Mind, told EastLondonLines: “A mental health crisis is an emergency just like a physical health emergency,”
“When your mind is at melting point you might be hallucinating or attempting to take your own life, so it is vital that you receive the right help and support, urgently.”
London Ambulance Service said work was being done to adapt its services in response to the surge in mental health calls.
It has signed up to the Crisis Care Concordat, which brings together the ambulance service, police, NHS, charities and social workers at a local level to support people in mental health crisis, and was the first trust in the country to run a pilot with dedicated mental health nurses handling calls.
The specialists responded to 1,804 calls between April and June this year, which led to 213 people being treated over the phone without the need for an ambulance.
Briony Sloper, Deputy Director of Nursing and Quality at London Ambulance Services, said: “We’ve already taken key steps to improve the specialist response available for patients who call 999 with mental health concerns, by employing four specialist mental health nurses who work directly from our control room alongside call handlers,”
“They are tasked with carrying out mental health assessments and working with patients to ensure they are able to access the right support in their local communities.”
Corlett said the rise revealed by the data was unsurprising and the service also recognises that people are “struggling” which is evident in the increase demand for services.
“Services are creaking under the pressure, something that has been compounded by cuts to funding and bed numbers, as well as a reduction in mental health staffing provision.”
“The lasting impact of the recession, a challenging job market and changes to the welfare system are all having an impact on the mental health of the nation and Mind has seen a huge increase in calls to our Infoline over the past couple of years.”, she added.