There has been a slow improvement in adult specialist community mental health services and this lack of progress combined with variations in quality is leaving some people with little or no access to care and treatment. This is the main finding from the Healthcare Commission and the Commission for Social Care Inspection national review. The Commission highlights weaknesses in involving people who use services, giving access to care and treatment and recovery and social inclusion.
One in six people suffer from mental health problems, such as depression and schizophrenia, at some stage of their life. In total this costs the UK around 77 billion pounds a year. Community mental health services have a crucial role to play in keeping people out of hospital and in the community where they prefer to be. This reduces financial, social and physical costs. The services are supposed to go further than traditional mental healthcare by providing flexible services that meet people’s needs without restricting their freedom and quality of home life.
The review found that people who use the services were not being routinely involved in decisions about their care and treatment, although it is crucial that people are given full information about the options available to them and are fully involved in decisions about their treatment and care. Involvement needs to be at individual and community level, but this is not happening and the majority are not being routinely involved in decisions about their medication and care. Simon Lawton-Smith of the King’s Fund said: “Too often health professionals are simply reluctant to offer choices, in other instances lack of choice is due to limitations on available local services. For this to change, local commissioners need to provide services that patients say they want rather than only what professionals have traditionally offered.”
The Commission also criticised access to services and support for employment. Mental health professionals are available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. But less than half respondents to the survey said they had the phone number to call. People with mental health problems continue to face exclusion from areas of life that many take for granted. Employment rate among sufferers is the lowest out of all the main groups of people with a disability. But nationally, the review found only 50% of those who needed help with finding employment received it.