MENTAL health chiefs have pledged to improve the support provided to users after coming under fire from patients claiming they felt abandoned by the system.

After being handed an extensive list of complaints from members of mental health organisation SUNS, directors and consultants at Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust met them face to face at the charity’s offices to address some of their misgivings about the body and its crisis team.

Paula May, the managing director of AWP Swindon, Dr Sammad Hashmi, the consultant psychiatrist for the intensive team, and Newland Anning, the head of practice and profession were quizzed by mental health sufferers and asked to account for what they called the disgusting and patronising way they were treated by the crisis team in their time of need.

User Maria Rooney said: “It trivialises someone’s mental health condition when people are desperate and are told by someone on the other end of the line to have a cup of tea and a bath.

“People want to be taken seriously by the crisis team. It’s patronising.”

Others at the meeting also claimed that despite being promised daily visits from the team over several weeks, they only received one phone call and had to deal with their suicidal thoughts and depression alone.

A tendency to call the police when users contacted the health service threatening to end their lives was also criticised by members, who said they felt ignored by mental health staff, who offloaded them on to the emergency services.

SUNS runs a helpline and chairman Ann Mooneysays they regularly deal with calls from patients let down by the crisis team at their most vulnerable, “When you call them, they say ‘We are a bit busy, do you really need us?’” said Ann, who suffers from mental health problems herself. “When they say they will call back they sometimes don’t for hours or not at all and in that time someone could have died.

“People are told they are going to be given help for two weeks and then someone just comes once.”

AWP representatives vowed to ensure staff were more sympathetic to users’ plight and their individual needs.

“We have to make sure people don’t get lost in the gaps,” said Paula May. “The response of the crisis team is not always helpful or what people need and can be a bit general, from what we are hearing.

“The advice given is not always helpful to hear and that’s not OK.”

Newland Anning said: “This is not just a one-off meeting. We need to come out and listen to what people have to say. We want to listen and improve.”