Unreasonable delay in dealing with urgent referral

Summary 672 |

Ms C experienced an unreasonable delay after her GP referred her to the Trust's community mental health team.

What happened

Ms C's GP referred her for an urgent assessment by the Trust's community mental health team. Although the referral was urgent, the community mental health team took three weeks to see Ms C. Ms C said that she had to take an extended period of sick leave which she attributes to the poor service she received.

What we found

The Trust did not make enough attempts to contact Ms C, and it was three weeks before someone from the community mental health team saw her. The Trust's own protocol required staff to contact a patient within seven days of an urgent referral. The unreasonable delay caused Ms C distress and anxiety, but we could not link these failures with Ms C's absence from work for two months.

The Trust was open and honest in its response to Ms C. It acknowledged its failure to see her sooner and said that it would take action to improve its service. However, this was not followed up, and we saw no evidence of learning by the Trust. We therefore upheld Ms C's complaint.

Putting it right

Since the events in question, the community mental health team management has changed. In order to reassure Ms C, we recommended that the Trust write to her, giving details of changes made in the way the community mental health team deals with urgent referrals, and how these will prevent a recurrence of her experience. The Trust did this. It also paid her £500 in recognition of the distress, uncertainty and loss of confidence in the service Ms C experienced.

Health or Parliamentary
Organisations we investigated

Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust


West Sussex

Complainants' concerns ?

Did not apologise properly or do enough to put things right



Compensation for financial loss