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Thursday, 16 November 2017

New CQC survey finds community mental health care has not improved since 2014

Written by Ella Pickover

Care for mental health patients outside hospital has not improved over the last three years, a new survey suggests.

In some areas, care for patients in the community in England has even deteriorated slightly, according to a large survey by the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

The poll of more than 12,000 mental health patients found that nearly two thirds (64%) rated their experience of community care as seven out of 10 or higher but this had not improved since 2014.

Meanwhile 26% of respondents said they did not feel they got the help they needed from crisis care, compared to 21% in 2014.

A quarter (25%) of patients said they had not seen workers from their mental health services often enough to meet their needs in the last year - up from 21% in 2014.

The number who said they felt "listened to" reduced slightly as did the number who said they had adequate time to discuss their needs and treatment.

Dr Paul Lelliott (pictured), deputy chief inspector of hospitals and lead for mental health at the CQC, said: "While it is good that two thirds of people in contact with community mental health services are satisfied overall with the care they are receiving, this still means that one in three people did not rate their experience so highly and it is disappointing that the results do not show improvements year-to-year.

"These services are important because they support the great majority of people who are under the care of specialist mental healthcare providers; including at times of crisis. They are also essential in working with people to ensure that their mental health does not deteriorate to the point that they require inpatient care."

The Royal College of Nursing said the findings were "worrying". The College said the number of mental health nurses has fallen by 6,000 since 2010 so it was "not surprising that patients are reporting worse experiences".

Vicki Nash, head of policy and campaigns at the mental health charity Mind, added: "We know that two thirds of people with a mental health problem don't get any support from services at all, and this survey shows that even those who do don't always get the help they need.

"Our mental health services are under immense pressure at the moment, and this report shows the stark scale of the challenge they face.

"It's essential that the £1bn promised by 2020/21 as part of the NHS and Government's five-year plan for mental health services reaches the front line, to bring them up to a basic standard.

"After sustained underfunding, this £1bn is only the beginning - it will take decades of continued investment to ensure that everyone with a mental health problem gets the care they need, when they need it."

Labour's shadow minister for mental health Barbara Keeley added: "Mental health services are less responsive and care is becoming more disjointed because crucial funding is not reaching the front line."

An NHS England spokesman said: "Today's independent analysis shows that overall, patients' experience of community mental health has been, and remains, consistently high.

"It is encouraging to see that, even as we expand talking therapies for common mental illness to one million people this year, today's CQC analysis shows that eight out of 10 NHS patients requiring more specialist community care, are getting the treatment they need, in good time.

"We are two years into a five year plan of improvement for mental health services, so there is of course a long way to go to overcome years of under-investment and address the challenges highlighted in today's report.

"However we are making important progress, with funding going up significantly to £9.7bn last year, and increasing numbers of people getting quicker access to treatment, closer to home, before their problems escalate."

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