1. ITV Report

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

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.

It got to a point where I said to someone that someone will die - someone's going to die.

– Mental health nurse, speaking anonymously

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.

There weren't enough staff. People were getting hurt regularly. It was just a feeling of not being safe.

– Mental health nurse, speaking anonymously

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.

The pressure on beds was constant. I remember sometimes people would literally come onto the ward and ask 'who is your most well patient - who can we send on leave?'. Often the response would be 'no one - no one is actually well enough'.

And then you'd be told 'we've filled the bed already'. It got to the point where police were being called to remove people from the wards.

They might go home - they might do something to themselves - they might do something to someone else. I know there have been cases of people recently discharged, ending their own life.

– Mental health nurse, speaking anonymously

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.


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.


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.

Initially I was sat on one of the stairs in the waiting area. And then they eventually said that I could go into this room which was like a prison cell.

I couldn't shower, I couldn't brush my teeth, I couldn't do anything. I felt completely alone - that feeling of loneliness was really strong and it made me think that I wish the suicide attempt had been successful.

– Andy

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

There may very well be instances in which that happens [staff can't cope]. There are reporting systems that say if we've got acute staffing issues that automatically generates a report which goes to the boards.

– John Brouder, Cavendish Square group

I think what worries me the most is the denial of the problem. It was very much 'deny that this is an issue - continue as normal - try to cover up the cracks'.

We train to look after people. They weren't given the care that they deserve - the care they should have been getting.

– Mental health nurse, speaking anonymously

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 worse If you experience a mental health problem for the first time If someone has self-harmed but it does not appear to be life-threatening, or is talking about wanting to self-harm If a person shows signs of the onset of dementia If 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 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