There are "very low bed numbers" for mental health patients at an NHS trust, one of its directors has admitted, with hundreds of people in crisis waiting for almost a day or more in east London A&E departments.

In January this year, more than 335 patients arrived at Queen’s Hospital in Romford and King George Hospital in Goodmayes in need of urgent mental health support.

Their average length of stay was more than 20 hours, with 38 people waiting more than a day and a half.

Matthew Trainer, chief executive of Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust (BHRUT), which runs the two hospitals, has repeatedly raised concerns about mental health patients waiting “too long” to be transferred to the right ward.

He said the hospitals’ busy and noisy A&E departments, which have the worst waiting time performance in the country, are the “very last place” patients should be.

At a scrutiny committee for healthcare in east London last week, a senior director at North East London NHSFoundation Trust (NELFT), which is responsible for mental health care in outer east London, admitted her trust has “very low bed numbers”.

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To deal with mental health patients waiting in A&E departments, the meeting heard NELFT staff are now having morning meetings where they review a list of every patient waiting at local hospitals.

However, when questioned by a health overview committee member, executive director of integrated care Brid Johnson did not set out any plans to increase the number of beds available.

She said NELFT also needs to “strengthen” its out-of-hospital care services that “manage people on a day-to-day basis”.

She added: “The most important thing to try to do is keep people away from A&E in the first place, to bring them straight to one of our crisis hubs or, if they’re known to us, to a named worker.”

However, she said many people arriving at A&E departments are not known to mental health services already.

Another key issue for NELFT’s mental health services is retaining staff, since almost one in four staff at the trust report feeling “burnt out”, according to a recent staff survey.

Brid said: “The morale issue is a key area[…] linked to morale is the size of caseloads and a lack of staffing.”

NELFT provides community and mental health services for people living in the London boroughs of Barking and Dagenham, Barnet, Havering, Redbridge and Waltham Forest.