By Harriet Ernstsons Thursday 03 October 2013 Updated: 04/10 07:30
HEALTH bosses say they are getting better at identifying mental health issues after a dramatic rise in cases at the Alexandra Hospital.
Figures obtained by the Standard show a total of 328 patients were seen by the mental health liaison team at the Alex in the first six months of 2013, compared to an overall total of 481 in 2012.
The number has rapidly risen from 207 in 2009, with similar rises at the Worcestershire Royal, where 453 people were seen in the first six months of this year compared to just 183 four years ago.
A combined total of 331 across the two hospitals needed to be referred on for further treatment between January and June, compared to 320 in the whole of 2012 and 151 in 2009.
Mark Underwood, a member of the Redditch Mental Health Action Group, said it was time for 'important discussions' to take place regarding the way forward for mental health services and access to those services for people in crisis.
"Mental health has always been the poor relation with regards to funding and quality of care, but this should not be the case with an average of one in four people liable to suffer a mental health disorder at some point in their lives.
"Stigma, discrimination and social exclusion also feature prominently when dealing with these issues and it is often left for the police service to pick up the pieces of people in crisis. Surely this cannot be right.
"Data suggests that people with mental health disorders are not getting the vital treatment that they need and there has to be a fear that the issues of unemployment and times of financial hardship, as well as returning servicemen, will bring an already overstretched system to the point of collapse."
It is hoped the launch of a new Acute Hospitals Mental Health Service, which will see Worcestershire Health and Care NHS Trust working in Redditch and Worcester, will improve the care of those in wards or A&E with mental health needs.
Team manager Karen Ingram said the increase in figures was likely to indicate better identification and management of people in need rather than solely an increase in illness.
"The launch of this initiative is national, the NHS is recognising more and more the need for an holistic approach to patient care and recovery and these teams are being set up around the country.
"Hospitals would wait weeks for a community mental health team to come and assess a patient on acute wards, now they are seen within 24 hours and managed appropriately to move them to the correct setting.
"Identifying those patients previously untreated may lead to an increase in treatments, but these treatments will be offered in primary care as well as secondary care settings.
"We are a proactive service. We go and identify patients in need rather than necessarily just responding to referrals."
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