72-hr discharge follow-up target for mental health patients missed 38,000 times

Press release
22 August 2022
  • The risk of suicide is highest after leaving inpatient mental health services, but too many patients are not being followed up during this critical time.
  • The Royal College of Psychiatrists is calling for more trained specialists to check-in on everyone who leaves inpatient care.

New analysis by the Royal College of Psychiatrists shows that between April 2020 and May 2022, 37,999 follow-ups with mental health patients after leaving inpatient facilities weren’t made within a critical 72-hour window.

The risk of suicide is highest on the second and third days after leaving a mental health hospital, that’s why the target of following up with at least 80% of people within three days after discharge was introduced.

The target has never been achieved in England since the introduction of the policy in 2019/20, leaving too many patients without specialist mental health support during this critical time.

In fact, almost half of Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) failed to meet this target in the latest data for May 2022 (47%).

The Royal College of Psychiatrists is calling for rapid action on workforce as more trained staff are needed in community mental health services to carry out follow-ups and ensure good continuity of care. Previously promised funding announced in the NHS Long Term Plan must urgently reach the frontline to help provide a strong support package after leaving inpatient care.

Dr Adrian James, President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said:

“We simply can’t afford to let people fall through the cracks at a time when they are so vulnerable. It’s vital that our mental health services are properly staffed and funded to offer proper follow-up care and help prevent suicides.

“Staff are working as hard as they can to provide high-quality care but it’s clear that current resources are not enough to meet these targets. We need urgent action to tackle the workforce crisis and achieve the suicide prevention goals set out in the NHS Long Term Plan.”

Between April 2020 and May 2022, only 76% of the 160,430 instances when patients were eligible for follow-up within 72 hours after discharge from acute adult mental health beds occurred within that timeframe.

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