Headlines: January 25th, 2000

An Audit Commission study of mental health services for older people has uncovered the familiar story across the NHS of patchy service.’Forget Me Not’ finds that services show wide variation in consistency and resources across England and Wales. There are also significant differences in how well the different agencies work together.

Crucially, it finds that older people with mental health problems are often best assessed and treated at home, yet most specialist services are hospital-based.

The commission says that the good practice they did find demonstrates the power of effective joint working between different specialist services and GPs to improve services to users and carers.

For example, the Dementia Care Initiative in Newcastle places individuals who would otherwise be in residential or nursing homes into ordinary housing, where they are encouraged by staff to participate in household activities. The scheme is managed by a voluntary organisation and paid for by social services as well as individual allowances and housing benefit.

In the next two years the commission will undertake further local audits of these services focussing on the issues highlighted – particularly communication and co-ordination between agencies.

Forget Me Not: Mental Health Services for Older People, is available from commission publications on 0800 502030 priced 20 pounds.