Underfunded, understaffed and overflowing with patients - shocking state of mental health services

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By Katie Barnfield

Shocking figures reveal just how serious the crisis in London's mental health trusts has become. A freedom of information request by ITV News London shows mental health units in almost every area are dangerously full.

Trusts have had to cope with millions of pounds being cut from their budgets - and some have lost hundreds of trained nurses. One nurse still working in the NHS, told us patients are being discharged when they are still at risk, and staff feel unsafe.

The nurse told us her story from the inside, on the condition that we don't identify her. She has worked in London for her entire career, but left her last job because she was afraid she would get hurt like many of her colleagues. She told us patients with the most serious mental health conditions were not getting the care they deserved - and were sometimes physically harming nurses who could not control them. She believes this was all because of a lack of funding, and too few staff to keep themselves and their patients safe. She told us she knows of cases where patients have been discharged because of a lack of beds, and have gone on to take their own lives.

She worked at North East London Foundation Trust and says the lack of resources, and the pressure this put on staff and patients, was too much to cope with.

But this nurse is not alone. ITV News London sent Freedom of Information requests to every mental health trust in London. What came back was a picture of services struggling to cope time and time again.

  • FUNDING

Almost every trust has less funding than it did ten years ago. South West London and St George's has lost more than £14 million from its budget since 2008.

  • STAFF

Some Trusts have also lost hundreds of specialist staff. South London and Maudsley has lost 317 mental health nurses since 2008. West London has lost 301.

  • BEDS

And almost every Trust is operating above safe levels for bed occupancy.Barnet, Enfield and Haringey Mental Health Trust is running at an average of 97% occupancy. Camden and Islington is running at 98%.

Andy was in the area of Camden and Islington Trust when he made an attempt on his life earlier this year. There were no beds available across the entire Trust. He was left waiting for 30 hours in the A&E department at a local hospital.

John Brouder is chair of the Cavendish Square group which represents London's mental health trusts.

And if you - or someone you know - has been affected by any of the issues in this report - always call 999 in an acute life-threatening medical or mental health emergency.

You can go to A&E directly if you need immediate help and are worried about your safety. You may be close to acting on suicidal thoughts or have seriously harmed yourself.

The Samaritans operate a free to call service 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, if you want to talk to someone in confidence. Call them on 116 123.

You can call NHS 111 if you or someone you know requires urgent care, but it is not life-threatening. For example:

If you have an existing mental health problem and your symptoms get worseIf you experience a mental health problem for the first timeIf someone has self-harmed but it does not appear to be life-threatening, or is talking about wanting to self-harmIf a person shows signs of the onset of dementiaIf a person is experiencing domestic violence or physical, sexual or emotional abuse

[Source: NHS]

Mental health charity Mind has a free tool on its website for people to use if they need help, which can help direct you to the right services.

Go to their website at mind.org.uk and click the 'I need urgent help' button

You can also call their helpline for a information on a range of mental health conditions - this is on 0300 123 3393

Rethink Mental Illness, another dedicated mental health charity, has factsheets on their website which give detailed information on different mental health conditions

They also have an advice and information service, which can provide practical help on a range of issues such as the Mental Health Act, welfare benefits, criminal justice and carers rights.

You can register for this on their website at rethink.org