The number of homeless people calling for help with their mental health has quadrupled in Lincolnshire compared with pre-pandemic levels – the second highest increase in England.
Between February 2020 and March 2021, Lincolnshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust recorded a 300% increase in homeless people making contact with mental health services.
Data represents a steeper rise than almost all other trusts in the country, and second only to East London NHS Foundation Trust (1980% rise).
The alarming spike, alongside swelling numbers of rough sleepers in the Lincoln area, has also been attributed to a new Holistic Healthcare for the Homeless service – introduced by the trust in 2020.
An LPFT spokesperson said: “The county has seen an increase in the number of people homeless or living in temporary accommodation in recent years.
“A lot of people who find themselves sleeping rough in Lincolnshire gravitate towards Lincoln city because historically and currently there are a number of homeless services within close proximity, including a direct access night shelter.
“Recognising this, in April 2020, Lincolnshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust launched a new Holistic Healthcare for the Homeless service to provide dedicated support to any individual that is rough sleeping or who is vulnerably accommodated within the city of Lincoln.
“Since the introduction of this service, the trust is pleased to have been able to support more people who are homeless or in temporary accommodation to access support.
“The team works with partner organisations, both statutory and voluntary, to provide person-centred advice and treatment to tackle mental ill health and support with any substance misuse and physical health care needs.
“The service operates Monday to Friday from 9.00am to 5.00pm and any partner agency can refer any person rough sleeping or vulnerably accommodated to the service.”
Figured collated by the BBC’s Shared Data Unit showed a surge in mental health referrals during the pandemic.
Latest figures show at least 279,995 referrals were made through 117 NHS clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) in March 2021, a rise of 19% from the total seen in February 2020.
Urgent crisis care referrals – made when a patient is suffering a more serious mental health crisis – are also at their highest levels in two years.
North Lincolnshire CCG recorded a 6% rise in referrals between February 2020 and March 2021, while in North East Lincolnshire, a 61% rise in referrals represents the fourth highest rise in the country.
Lincolnshire CCG, however, was among those groups for which data was not supplied, as it was the subject of a merger during the time period.
Mental health charities in England have urged the government to act.
MIND’s head of health policy Geoff Heyes said: “When you see those figures reaching record levels it’s a real alarm bell for problems elsewhere in the system, where people aren’t getting support quickly enough.”
“Our fear is that more people will be struggling because of the economic impacts that we have yet to see.”