hospitalThe number of people who go to accident and emergency (A&E) departments for psychiatric problems has risen by nearly half since 2011-12, research has revealed.

Between 2011-12 and 2015-16, the number of people who attended A&E departments with psychiatric problems increased to 165,000, according to data compiled by the BBC and NHS Digital.

In addition, in that time the number of under-18s who went to A&E with psychiatric problems nearly doubled to 22,000.

While these patients still only account for just over 1% of the total A&E attendances, it is likely that the true number of people presenting with mental health problems is larger – as these figures only included cases where a mental health problem was the primary diagnosis.

For instance, those who attended A&E after self-harming or attempting suicide may have had a different reason recorded for their attendance.

Indeed, as many as a tenth of people going to A&E departments were going because of mental ill health, according to some trusts that the BBC spoke to.

Speaking to the BBC, Dr Peter Aitken, from the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said A&E departments needed to invest in specialist psychiatric services to ensure people with mental health problems got the right support.

“Mental health presentations to A&E are unlikely to be minor as they represent an urgent crisis point in a person's life," he added.

This news comes just days after Prime Minister Theresa May set out plans to overhaul mental health care, including investing £15 million to provide and promote new models of community–based care such as crisis cafes and community clinics.

In addition, this week, documents leaked to the BBC showed that nearly 25% of patients waited longer than 4 hours for treatment in A&E last week. In addition, many faced long waits for a bed when A&E staff admitted them to hospital.