Headlines: September 30th, 2004

The government’s comprehensive plan to improve mental health services needs major acceleration if its aspirations are to be met. That is the conclusion of a review by Mind, the leading mental health charity, of the progress of the National Service Framework for Mental Health as it marks its fifth anniversary.The NSF programme was set out in 1999 and laid down models of treatment and care that people would be entitled to expect in every part of the country. Five years on, Mind believes the framework has led to some improvements but says other equally important areas are still not being met. Overall, in a report published today, Mind finds unsatisfactory progress in six of seven standards.

The charity fears that unless the Government addresses the progress of the framework with more urgency, the national standards it sets out will not be met within the ten-year time frame.

In Mental Health Promotion, for example, it says there has been little implementation in many areas of the country and a national commitment is needed to create a more mentally healthy environment. Mind says, too, that further work also needs to be done in primary care and access to services before it can be claimed either of these standards is being met. Most GPs and primary care staff, the report says, still have no significant formal training in mental health.

Under standards four and five – effective services for people with severe mental illness – the emphasis in the last 5 years has been on the development of community based services. For a large number of people this has resulted in improvements, says Mind, but services such as assertive outreach teams are still not available to all. Mind is also concerned that current proposals under the Mental Health Bill for compulsory treatment in the community will undermine the trust on which assertive outreach is based. In its “Ward Watch” report, published last month, Mind found mixed examples of inpatient care and highlighted particular concerns about mixed sex wards, safety issues and the lack of meaningful activity for those in hospital for longer periods.

Mind says that if standards were fully implemented, particularly with reference to mental health promotion and primary and secondary care services, more progress would be made toward suicide prevention.

Mind’s Policy Director, Sophie Corlett, said, “The NSF laid out a comprehensive plan to improve mental health services in England and Wales. If achieved it would deliver better care and treatment for around one in six of the population. Progress to date is unsatisfactory and calls into question the Government’s stated prioritising of mental health.”