17 May 2022

Suicidal Derry woman had seventeen-hour A&E wait

Over 1,000 patients waiting to access psychological therapies in Western Trust, the longest waiting close to three years

Suicidal Derry woman had seventeen-hour A&E wait

A woman experiencing a mental health crisis has claimed she had to wait seventeen hours at Altnagelvin’s A&E department before being admitted for treatment.

The woman, who wished to remain anonymous, presented at the emergency department around 3am on Friday, January 24.

She told the Derry News she had to wait until 8pm the following evening before she seen her GP and a decision was made to admit her to a mental health unit in Omagh.

Diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, the woman who is in her 20s, has complex needs and has active suicidal ideation.

She claims the community psychiatric nurse at Altnagelvin was sending her home until a police officer intervened to insist that she got the help she needed.

According to the latest figures available for the Western Trust area, 475 people are waiting to access to Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) services.

The target is that no patient waits more than nine weeks, but 294 of those individuals have been waiting in excess of nine weeks, with the longest wait forty-one weeks.

In addition, 1,252 people are waiting to access psychological therapies.  No patient is supposed to wait longer than thirteen weeks, however, 793 have done so - the longest wait recorded 143 weeks.

It was recently announced that the Stormont executive is to set up a new working group on mental wellbeing and resilience.

It is the first time that the executive has collectively demonstrated determination and unity to tackle mental health issues including suicide.

Health minister Robin Swann said the issue requires a "strategic, coordinated and sustained approach" across government departments.


A Spokesperson for the Western Health and Social Care Trust (Western Trust) said: “Respecting confidentiality the Western Trust does not comment on the individual treatment and care of its patients.

“Those presenting in crisis to an Emergency Department will be seen within two hours by a mental health professional and will have a thorough mental state assessment. This service operates seven days per week across the Trust.

“In addition the Trust also operates the Card Before You Leave scheme (CBYL). This scheme offers next day appointments with a mental health professional for those presenting with a mental health crisis who have been assessed as being low risk of self-harm.”

She continued: “Following assessment patients may be offered a range of interventions including admission, if appropriate, to a psychiatric bed, referred for follow-up by an appropriate community mental health team, referred to an appropriate community or voluntary organization or discharged back to the care of their General Practitioner.

“There are a range of statutory and voluntary services which respond to those with mental health issues in the Western Trust area.

“Services in the voluntary sector can be accessed through self-referral or through referral from mental health services, acute services or Emergency Departments. Statutory services are accessed via GP and/or Emergency Department referral.”

Crisis intervention service 

No decision has yet been made on the future of Derry’s Community Crisis Intervention Service based at the Holywell Trust building on Bishop Street.

In its first year the de-escalation service helped over 100 people in varying degrees of crisis, including those at risk of suicide or self-harm.

Service Co-ordinator, Joe Thompson, wholeheartedly believes it has been life saving in that time.

However, funding is not in place to ensure the long-term future of the service.

Yesterday, a spokesperson for Derry City and Strabane District Council confirmed that the University of Ulster has carried out an evaluation of the pilot Community Crisis Intervention Service (CCIS) which will help inform statutory health partners on future service provision within the council area. 

The Health and Social Care Board are also considering a request from Council for funding to allow the pilot CCIS to continue to the end of March 2020.

Mark H. Durkan MLA tabled a question to the Department of Health regarding its commitment to the continuation of the Community Crisis Intervention Service in Derry.

In response this week, a DoH official said: “The Crisis Intervention Service in Derry is led by Derry and Strabane District Council.

“The Health and Social Care Board are currently considering a request for funding from the council to allow the project to continue until the end of March 2020.  An evaluation report is awaited to inform future service provision.”

If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this story and need to speak to someone urgently, please call Lifeline on 0808 808 8000, the Samaritans or attend your local Emergency Department.

The Community Crisis Intervention Service provides a timely (within approximately 30mins), non-clinical, community response to individuals experiencing social, emotional or situational crisis over a timeframe of 8pm on Thursdays through to 8am on Sundays.

If you feel in crisis and need support or if you have observed someone who is in distress and may come to significant harm through self-harm and suicidal behaviour please call the Community Crisis Intervention Service on: 028 7126 2300

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