The number of ambulance call-outs for people experiencing mental health problems in England has soared by nearly a quarter in two years.
Data obtained under the Freedom of Information Act shows paramedics helped over 30,000 more patients (172,799) in crisis in 2016-17 compared with 140,137 in 2014-15, a rise of 23%.
An additional 55,000 hours were spent supporting people with their mental health last year, compared with 2014-15 – up by 32%. In London the time spent rose by 45%, according to the request for information made by the Labour MP Luciana Berger.
Berger, a former shadow minister for mental health, said the numbers were “shocking” but came as no surprise. She accused the government of “dismantling” vital early intervention and prevention services so more people are ending up crisis.
The Labour MP said: “Jeremy Hunt has no other option but to introduce ringfenced budgets for mental health to ensure funding reaches the frontline. The health secretary must take urgent action for the sake of patients and staff.”
She added: “Too much money pledged for mental health is not reaching the sector. In the absence of ringfenced budget, funding is being diverted to prop up other areas of the NHS.”
Natasha Devon, the writer, campaigner and former mental health champion for schools, said the numbers were a direct result of cuts. She added: “I hear stories of people actively seeking arrest by acting in dangerous ways because that’s the only way they can get the attention they need. I have also heard of vulnerable teenagers knowing exactly how much they have to self-harm in order to ‘ensure’ a hospital stay. Accident and emergency, ambulance and police services weren’t designed for this … meanwhile the government talks vaguely about ‘stigma’ and training teachers’.”