Barnet, Enfield and Haringey Mental Health NHS Trust has come under fire from patients who say they had to wait hours before getting through to an emergency helpline.
The trust’s crisis resolution home treatment service claims to operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, but patients have said it is not accessible and is leaving them “in danger”.
Christina Meacham, chief executive of mental health charity Mind in Barnet, said: “If we have a person in our group who needs urgent help then we ring the crisis service but we have had problems dialling through and getting a response.
“It’s worrying that even professionals have difficulty getting responses from statutory services.”
Ms Meacham said this is a problem that needs to be addressed urgently, but also said people with mental health should have access to round the clock, hands-on support.
She said: “There should be a manager and mental health liaison officer who know about mental health based in A&E departments. That would reduce the amount of pressure on the crisis line.
"Social interventions are often more useful than medical interventions, so if there was someone they could talk to, it would really help. It’s a low cost social intervention.”
One mental health patient spoke to the Times Series about his experiences about getting help in an emergency.
The 43-year-old from Barnet, who asked to remain anonymous, said he has tried to call the crisis helpline many times this year but has often been left hanging on the line for between four to five hours at a time.
He said: “I feel like you have to jump through hoops and loops to get to the service. If something isn’t done about this, people will end up turning to suicide.
“Mental health is the least funded, least understood and least cared for.”
He agrees with Ms Meacham that sufferers should have a “place of safety” they can turn to when they are in need.
He added: “We’re talking about human lives – it shouldn’t be about money. Something must be done.”
The trust has apologised to patients who have struggled to contact the service.
A mental health trust spokesman said: "We always aim to respond as soon as possible to all urgent referrals and we apologise if any individuals have had difficulty contacting us – we would be happy to discuss this with them if they wished.”
The spokesman added the trust’s crisis resolution and home treatment teams provide a “dedicated” service for urgent mental health referrals.
He said: “They are able to assess service users wherever they are at the point of referral, eg GP surgery, A&E or their own home. We keep the service under continuous review to ensure it remains as responsive as possible to people’s needs.”
The trust said it also operates a full rapid assessment, intervention and discharge service in North Middlesex Hospital and an enhanced liaison psychiatry service in Barnet General Hospital.
The spokesman said: “This means that mental health staff are based in both acute hospitals to provide support to A&E staff and people with mental health problems."