Cuts in frontline budgets, major reorganisation in the NHS, a lack of resources for GPs and healthcare staff who are not always understanding of anxiety and mental health disorders are all factors that are potentially undermining the quality of mental health care, according to Anxiety UK.
The anxiety disorders charity fears the combination of these concerns could lead to a potential meltdown of mental health services in the UK in the coming months.
Nicky Lidbetter, CEO of Anxiety UK, said: “We have seen and heard some very positive developments in recent years and the Time for Change campaign has made good progress in tackling and reducing the stigma often associated with mental health illness among the wider public.
“However, there are a multitude of other factors that raise serious concerns here at Anxiety UK around the delivery of, and access to, good quality mental health services.
“For instance, we know that spending is already three times less on mental health services in some areas than it is on others.
“In addition, spending on mental health care overall fell for the second year running according to figures provided by Department of Health officials to the health select committee recently.
“Budget pressures may lead the newly created GP-led clinical commissioning groups who are now responsible for commissioning mental health services locally to look for savings on the current arrangements that are in place.
“There is a strong economic case to invest in mental health services as failure to do so will only will only increase the pressure on more expensive acute care while leaving families in deeper crises.
“We also know that following the publication of a recent survey of local authorities by YoungMinds that two-thirds of local authorities have cut their budgets for children and young people’s mental health services (CAMHS) since the coalition government came to power in 2010.
“Scaling back on mental health support by local authorities will only lead to greater problems longer term resulting in more complex and more expensive treatments if early interventions are not provided.
“We need to see a much more joined up approach between local and central government in order for health policy to be successfully delivered without jeopardising the mental health needs of young people and other anxiety sufferers.”
NHS failing patients
Recent comments by Dr Clare Gerada, president of the Royal College of General Practitioners, claiming that patients are being failed by the NHS because family doctors do not have enough time, training or resources to give them proper care, also worried Lidbetter.
Gerada added that mental health often gets forgotten because the health service is designed around hospital and medicines rather than identifying and treating psychological disorders.
“Dr Gerada rightly highlighted the fact that mental health issues were responsible for about 25% of GP consultations and should be a greater NHS priority,” said Lidbetter.
“Without the necessary training, time and resources we are going to see more and more sufferers not receiving the right diagnosis or support.
“All of these issues need addressing if we are to ensure the delivery and quality of mental health services is maintained and improved, especially at a time when services like ours are experiencing unprecedented demand.”