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NHS mental health services 'consistently poor', regulator finds

NHS community mental health services provide a 'consistently poor' experience for people seeking support, according to the latest care regulator findings.

The findings come from a new report from the Care Quality Commission – the health and social care regulator for the UK. The report states that, of the 17,601 people that took part in the survey, 'few positive results' could be identified.

Of particular concern are experiences of crisis care, access to care and involvement in care.

The survey found that 28% of people in need of crisis care would not know who to contact during out of office hours. Of those who did, almost 1 in 5 (17%) did not get the help they needed. .

In terms of access, almost half (44%) of respondents who had received NHS therapies in the last 12 months felt they waited too long to receive them, while 1 in 4 (24%) felt they had not seen NHS mental health services often enough to meet their needs.

Findings concerning communication were similarly poor. One in 4 people (28%) had not been told who was in charge of organising their care, or had not had a discussion about possible medicinal side effects (24%). Just over 4 in 10 (41%) had not had the purpose of their medicines discussed with them fully.

Regarding involvement, only around 1 in 2 people felt they were 'definitely' involved as much as possible in care planning (53%), medicine decisions (52%), and therapy decisions (50%).

The report also revealed apparent disparities between age groups and diagnoses.

People with more challenging and severe non-psychotic disorders, complicated cognitive impairment and dementia disorders consistently reported worse than average experiences – a sentiment shared with people aged between 18 and 35. Interestingly, those aged 66 or older reported better than average experiences.

Positive findings included almost all respondents (97%) knowing how to contact the person in charge of their care; 91% believing that the person who organised their care did so ‘very’ or ‘quite' well; and 73% stating that they were ‘always’ treated with dignity and respect.

"Many people have not received help, advice or support from NHS mental health services for physical health, social interaction or to support financial stability," the report states.

An ever bigger problem on the horizon?

Alarmingly, the report states that the issues highlighted in the report may yet be at their worst, as they are "likely to be affected by COVID-19 as a result of restricted activity during lockdown and economic uncertainty.”

As the authors of the report state, mental health services have been under increasing pressure for a number of years now.

However, leading bodies in the field are predicting are sharp increase in demand for support as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic. A recent survey revealed that 72% of 250 senior NHS figures expect a 20% increase in demand coupled with a 10–30% reduction in capacity.

To read the full report, click here.


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