Dan Parton (28/11/11)looks into two major reports on the stateof mental health services by Mind and by the Royal College ofPsychiatrists.
While both reports released last week looked at a differentaspect of mental health, crisis care and psychological therapiesrespectively, each found that significant numbers of service usershave to wait to access treatments.
The two reports concurred that while there are examples ofgreat practice out there, some people struggle to access servicesquickly enough to stop their mental health deterioratingfurther.
Mind's independent inquiry, 'Listening to experience', intoaccessing emergency treatment, found that while excellent crisiscare does exist, there are problems with in-patient hospitals andcommunity crisis teams. These include: people struggling to gethelp, staffing problems, poor quality care environments and notenough treatment provided to help people recover.
The findings prompted Paul Farmer, chief executive of Mind, tosay: "Mental health crises need urgent treatment, yet ourinvestigation found that far from receiving the instant, 24-7response we expect for physical health emergencies, peopleexperiencing mental health emergencies can be faced with longwaits, poor quality care and in some cases are unable to accesshelp at all."
Meanwhile, the National Audit of Psychological Therapies (NAPT)- commissioned by the Healthcare Quality Improvement Partnership(HQIP) and carried out by the Royal College of Psychiatrists'Centre for Quality Improvement - reported that 1 in 7 people waitmore than 3 months for their first appointment.
Both reports are surprising. Timely interventions for peoplewith mental health problems - whether acute or secondary - arecrucial in preventing further deterioration and getting people onthe road to recovery, more quickly.
It is widely accepted that early intervention can reduce theneed for longer and more expensive services - whether in- orout-patients - which is surely crucial in this era of austerity andcounting every penny?
If you're reading this and thinking that the above sentences arestatements of the obvious, then you're not alone. I do too. Butjudging by the findings in these reports, the message isn't gettingthrough to every service. And it needs to. People are sufferingunnecessarily and everyone loses out as a result.
While these reports are useful pointers to show whereimprovements can be made, it is now up to the providers - and thoseinvolved in commissioning services - to make the necessarychanges.
Pressure needs to applied, from government downwards, andservice users upwards, to ensure that they do. Austere times arenot an excuse for allowing poor practice to continue.