Today, Rethink Mental Illness publishes a report that sets out a roadmap to rebuild mental health community care in England by 2024.
Following the recent focus on treatment and crisis care in the NHS Long Term Plan, the charity is calling on people to look beyond care in traditional settings, and to start building communities that are able to provide care outside of the hospital.
It sets out that for the vast majority of people living with severe mental illness, people who are most likely, in theory, to end up in a position of crisis, the things that really matter - once a diagnosis has been achieved and some reasonably successful form of medication or therapy is offered - are levels of social connectedness, financial stability, employment, and housing.
Whilst diagnosis and treatment are vital, it’s only half the story. Without access to services like supported housing, help with employment, and debt advisors, the care provided in hospital can be undone if the right support networks aren’t available.
The report is split into sections which focus on different issues:
Changing the face of community care
"Community care for people severely affected by mental illness has been overlooked for decades in policy and practice", the report reads. "The NHS Long Term Plan changed that. In January 2019, the new plan set out clear ambitions to redesign local services to radically improve care in the community and transform the lives of 370,000 people severely affected by mental illness over the next five years."
Rethink Mental Illness is calling for communities and organisations to provide "a world-leading holistic and integrated model of care". This is in light of a recent survey finding that out of the 38% of people living with mental illness who wanted to find a voluntary placement, only 27% were offered support and advice on doing so.
The component parts of a world-leading community model of care
Whilst IAPT (Increasing Access to Psychological Therapies) has made psychological therapy more accessible, Rethink Mental Illness are calling for a template to be established to support those with more complex and enduring needs. The charity envisages this being done through multiple avenues:
- Reducing waiting times for assessment
- Access to NICE-approved (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) therapies as and when people need them, delivered through a multi-disciplinary team
- Trauma-informed care
- Appropriate and informed discussions about medication and potential side effects
- Connecting people to wider provisions such as care navigators
- Integration with sufficiently funded addiction services
- Access to peer support groups based around shared interests
- Social prescribing projects to be made widely available
- Publicising the availability of annual physical health checks
- Making physical exercise more accessible through addressing common concerns such as unease about exercising with strangers
- Local sports centres to put reasonable adjustments in place for people with mental illness
- Making sure everyone has access to a safe environment to live in
- Cooperation between clinical teams and supported housing staff
- Community mental health services to record how living situations may negatively impact mental health
- Better communication between clinicians and providers of financial advice
- Better tracking from the DWP (Department of Work and Pensions) on the impact its policies have upon those with mental illness
- DWP to create environments that are more comfortable for those with mental illness such as offering a private meeting room
Employment and volunteering:
- Support when transitioning into work from the DWP
- Collaboration between clinical staff, the voluntary sector, and the private sector to develop workplace skills
- Local mental health hospitals to offer volunteering opportunities whilst people are in hospitals
- Making reasonable adjustments in job applications
Working together in local areas to deliver in partnership
"Delivering this range of support for people in the community involves a wide range of national and local stakeholders to plan, fund and provide: people with lived experience, NHS, local authorities and the third and private sectors."
Leading the way in your sector
"The NHS Long Term Plan is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to finally ensure that those who are most severely affected by mental illness get the support they need. It is early in the process, but wider society now needs to match the NHS’s commitment to do things differently."
A call to arms
The Report concludes with a Call to Arms, calling for an end to a fragmented system which often means experts and services are not able to work together to deliver the best care for individuals.
The report was launched at an event attended by 60 UK CEOs from companies across civic society to discuss how to build communities that support mental illness. Rethink Mental Illness will be following up by continuing to involve charities, civic society and employers in a network to build the support that people living with severe mental illness need in their community.
It follows a recent survey by the charity which found that few people living with long term mental health conditions actually receive support for things like education and money management, despite needing it.
- See more: The benefits of social prescribing - and a word of warning
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Mark Winstanley, CEO of Rethink Mental Illness said,
“It’s too easy to fall into the trap of believing that diagnosis and treatment is the end of the journey. The reality is that the opposite is true. Even with treatment, our mental health can be affected by so many other aspects of day to day life, like the availability of social support networks and financial stability.
“With so many contributing factors, it’s only right that the treatment of mental illness receive a societal wide response. We’ve been guilty of overlooking the expertise that others can offer. Today is the first step towards changing that; bringing experts together to work towards a common goal.”
For more information, visit www.rethink.org/buildingbettercommunities