Mental health service warns it is operating over capacity

An east London mental health service is operating at “way over” 100 pre cent capacity.

North East London Foundation Trust (NELFT) says it is facing “sustained levels of demand” for its mental health services.

As a result, the trust’s in-patient ward at Goodmayes Hospital and a smaller ward at Whipps Cross Hospital are at full capacity.

Speaking at a trust board meeting this week, Brid Johnson, acting executive director of integrated care, said: “Our bed rate is at 100 per cent occupancy, actually it’s way over, we are seeking help from outside the area and using private beds.”

NELFT provides mental health services and some community health services in Waltham Forest, Redbridge, Havering and Barking and Dagenham.

The trust’s chief executive Paul Calaminus says it is facing a range of challenges to providing residents support including “amongst the highest rates” of mental ill-health in the country and one in five staff posts left unfilled.

According to its most recent performance figures, only four in ten (41 per cent) of adults referred to the trust receive treatment within eighteen weeks – far below the NHS England target of 92 per cent.

A “deep dive” of the NELFT’s waiting list has found that children and young people are “disproportionately affected”.

This puts extra pressure on east London’s hospital accident and emergency (A&E) departments, where less than three in ten (28 per cent) people with mental health needs are seen within twelve hours of arriving.

Matthew Trainer, chief executive of BHRUT, which oversees King George Hospital in Goodmayes and Queen’s Hospital in Romford, has repeatedly raised concerns about the pressure this is putting on his A&Es.

In July, BHRUT – which has some of the longest A&E waiting times in the country – saw its highest ever number of patients referred to mental health services, with a total of 413 patients waiting an average of 22 hours.

Earlier this month, he said: “I am very concerned about the significant risk some of these patients pose to themselves and others while we look after them for long periods of time in an environment that is just not suited to their needs.”

NHS North East London, formed in July last year to oversee health services across East London, has placed NELFT in “enhanced quality monitoring” due to concerns about its waiting list pressures, safeguarding capacity, governance and the use of locum doctors.

NELFT has brought in some measures to increase capacity including twelve new mental health beds to be available from December this year, on top of the 106 beds it already has.

It is also piloting psychiatric liaison services in hospitals and developing its “crisis alternatives” to avoid people going to A&E for help.

Josh Mellor

Local Democracy Reporter