Unfortunately the political party for whom mental health was one of three key pillars in their health policy – the Lib Dem’s – were all but ousted from parliament following the results of the last general election.
The party website contained a signature campaign to help ‘stamp out mental health stigma’, as well as answers to a number of key questions including policies, treatment waiting times and how they intend to improve mental health research. Meanwhile their 2015 manifesto contained a further three pages of information. With the Liberal Democrats now out of the coalition, you have to wonder how much of a priority mental health if for the newly elected Conservative government.
Certainly the 2015 Conservative manifesto did very little to provide any meaningful reassurance, offering up in stark contrast, a mere paragraph on mental health and a vague one at that:
How much are they increasing funding for mental health care by? and what areas of the profession and which mental health conditions will benefit?
In fact other than all but naming Postnatal depression, what does their definition of mental health incorporate?… OCD, Eating Disorders, Dementia, Post Traumatic Stress disorder, Bipolar, Body dysmorphic disorder, Depression, Insomnia, Schizophrenia etc.. all of the above? a few?… or are they being vague so that should they only focus on one area technically they will not be culpable in the future?
A cynic would say mental health was included in the manifesto as an afterthought, perhaps feeling pre-election pressure from the media to acknowledge it; as the mental healthcare profession express continued dissatisfaction over staffing numbers and a distinct lack of funding…
Below are some recent findings about the state of the UK’s mental health services…
Mental health services ‘cut by 8 per cent’
Posted on 20/03/2015
Funding for NHS trusts to provide mental health services has fallen by more than 8% in real terms since 2010, according to research by Community Care and BBC News.
Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act from 43 mental health trusts in England show that total funding for the trusts’ mental health services dropped in real terms by 8.25 per cent, or almost £600m (once inflation has been accounted for).
Mind’s Chief Executive Paul Farmer said: “These figures reveal the true extent of cuts to mental health services over recent years. This week, the government announced extra funding for children and young people’s mental health services, a reflection of the scale of under resourcing. Today’s figures clearly show that the rest of mental health services are suffering just as much and need significant investment. “The impact of these cuts falls squarely on patient care. Bed shortages, cuts to frontline nursing posts and long waiting times for therapy have been well-documented in the last couple of years and, at the same time, demand has been increasing as more and more people come forward and seek help. The treatment gap for mental health is huge – 75 per cent of people with mental health problems get no help at all. Meanwhile, many more are being turned away from services when they need them the most, left to cope alone with self-harm and suicidal thoughts. “The next government will need to hit the ground running on mental health. Those in power can no longer ignore the fundamental truth that services only work when they are properly resourced. We need to see a permanent increase in the NHS mental health budget of at least £1bn if we are to reverse the damage caused by years of neglect and recent cuts.”
Mental health crisis care ‘struggling to cope’
Posted on 12/06/2015
People who need urgent mental health care in England are receiving inadequate support, regulators say.
The Care Quality Commission reviewed the help given to people in mental health crisis, which includes people who are suicidal, having serious panic attacks or psychotic episodes. The regulator said the system was “struggling to cope”. Its report also highlighted what it described as a “lack of compassion” from A&E staff.
The CQC carried out its investigation following the signing of a Crisis Care Concordat between the government and the sector last year which promised round-the-clock support to those who needed it. This includes help from dedicated mental health staff, intensive support at home or telephone advice.
But the review – based on surveys of patients, analysis of national data and inspections of services – found that 42% of patients did not get the help they needed.
Patients were also asked about the attitudes of staff towards them. Staff working for charities and volunteers received the most positive ratings, while staff in A&E received the worst. Just over a third of patients who ended up in A&E thought they had been treated with compassion and warmth, and a similar proportion said their concerns had been taken seriously. The dedicated crisis-resolution teams that are there to help those in trouble did little better, with fewer than half answering positively to each question.
The report also highlighted the experiences of a number of patients. One said: “It was approximately seven hours before I got crisis support and that was only a call not a visit, which would have been more useful. “As my crisis worsened, I took a small overdose as I was not coping or getting any immediate help.”
Dr Paul Lelliott, the CQC’s mental health lead, said while there were some excellent examples of care, the findings must “act as a wake-up call”.
“Worryingly many people told us that when they were having a crisis they often felt the police and ambulance crews were more caring and took their concerns more seriously than the medical and mental health professionals they encountered.”
Paul Farmer, chief executive of Mind, the mental health charity, said: “The report will not come as a surprise to anyone who has found themselves in crisis or who is involved in supporting people when they are at their most unwell. “We take for granted that when we have a physical health emergency we will get the help we need urgently. It should be no different for mental health.”
Care Minister Alistair Burt said the government was trying to tackle the problems in mental health with its new treatment targets and extra funding that were both announced before the election. “Improving mental health care is my priority,” he added.
Last year 1.8m people sought help for a mental health crisis.
From personal experience, I thought it was morally right to give up my PGCE University studies soon after the onset of my intrusive thoughts. This also meant I could focus 100% on pursuing counselling services and undertake CBT therapy. Had it not come to this, I would have found it incredibly difficult to receive help for my OCD because of the hours within which counselling services are offered.
Therefore far more out of hours support needs to be made available for those whose full time education/work commitments or family duties prevent them from accessing mental healthcare support.
In terms of OCD… ‘Necessary funding needs to be devoted to research, so that further progress can be made in the psychological understanding of OCD; and this will allow for further improvements in therapy to follow’ (Veale, 2005. p.91). And this is true of all mental health conditions.
But with the government seemingly unable to provide clear answers that will reassure those within the profession, let alone act to reassure and offer the best service to sufferers looking to seek help from it, it’s time David Cameron and health secretary Jeremy Hunt had their eyes opened.
Both are invited to join me on the walk and discuss their detailed plans for mental healthcare, so that they can be brought to you. Why not ask them the question and put your mental healthcare questions to them on twitter:
Prime Minister: @David_Cameron
Secretary of State for Health: @Jeremy_Hunt