THERE is an urgent need for a “mental health version” of an accident and emergency department, says a man with personal experience of the issues.

David Northmore, 60, from Hassocks, lives alone and has recently been suffering with mental health problems.

His friend Giles Ferlow said that despite having been successful and “having so much going for him” David has reached a vulnerable state.

David described turning to the mental health services in the UK being similar to “playing a game of snakes and ladders – but you never win”.

He said: “I am sent to A&E when I am having a bad episode which just doesn’t feel right. You end up getting told to see your GP, who then passes you on to other helplines who then suggest you go to A&E. There needs to be an equivalent. A&E is not the place if you are having a mental crisis.”

David said there was a lot of “sign posting” but not much substance or solution.

He said: “What are you supposed to do? It seems everyone passes you on to the next person then you are back to the beginning and it goes on and on.

“It’s also about the bigger picture. Mental health is huge and I can’t help but think what other people do with this lack of co-ordination.”

David is registered with Mid Sussex Health Care. While he appreciates its support, he described the guidance as a vicious circle.

He said: “My GP referred me to Change, Growth, Live, a service for mental health but I was told it would take weeks before I get assessed. I think if someone is experiencing a mental health crisis, instant help is more appropriate than filling out a form that takes ages to come to anything.”

David said he was advised to contact the Sussex Mental Health Crisis line, which describes itself as a “sign-posting service” which cannot make referrals. He was then put on to NHS 111 which advises calling 999 if suicidal or to go to A&E.

He said: “I know someone who had a mental breakdown and went to A&E as advised but of course it was no good. There needs to be somewhere more directed for mental health.”

Giles, 47, who has been supporting David said he feels helpless.

He said: “I don’t think there is much out there for people like David and I imagine there are a lot of them. Everyone says the same thing which makes you go round in circles. It’s really worrying when you have someone who is going downhill fast. I am too afraid to leave him because there just isn’t the support.”

A spokeswoman from the Clinical Commissioning Group said: “CCGs in West Sussex commission a range of mental health services aimed at treating specific mental health conditions as well as providing support to sustain improved mental health and wellbeing.

“These services are usually accessed through a GP and, following an assessment and according to need, a person needing help is seen within the nationally defined waiting times. Where help is required more quickly, an urgent referral from the GP or A&E department to mental health services can be arranged.

“Access to services such as talking therapies for depression and anxiety or community-based generic mental health support are available via self-referral, and this can be done via the Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust.”