NHS mental health services in the community

NHS calls for support to address poor mental health service reviews

NHS chiefs are “determined” to ensure patients get the care they need, after a survey from the Care Quality Commission (CQC) revealed that people’s experiences of mental health services in the community are poor.

The CQC research gathered feedback from nearly 15,000 people who received treatment for a mental health condition between 1 April and 31 May 2023.

The key areas of improvement revolved around:

  • Quality of care
  • Crisis care
  • Support while waiting
  • Planning and involvement in care

Areas of improvement

Around two in five (39%) said they were ‘definitely’ given the help they needed the last time they accessed mental health services, while half (50%) were ‘definitely’ given enough time to discuss their treatment.

Just over one in five (22%) said they would not know who to contact out of hours if they experienced a mental health crisis – a quarter (26%) did not get the help they needed when they did make contact.

NHS Providers’ chief executive, Sir Julian Hartley, said: "NHS trusts will be very concerned by the regulator's findings and are determined to do everything they can to give people the care they need in the face of record demand.

"Community mental health services, stretched to the limit in the face of soaring demand, must be a national priority, not 'poor relations' of the health system.”

Less than half (42%) of the respondents said that, while they were waiting for their treatment after an assessment from the mental health team, they did not receive the support they needed.

A similar amount (44%) reported deteriorations in their mental health while they were waiting for their first treatment appointment.

Meanwhile, more than a third (37%) said they did not have a care plan, nearly half (44%) had not seen their care reviewed in the previous year, and almost three in five (59%) were not asked if they required support to access their care.

What is going well

Despite the need to improve, the survey did show positive responses in a few areas including medication reviews and the privacy afforded to patients in care settings.

Over three-quarters (77%) said their mental health team had asked how they were finding their medication in the last 12 months.

Almost everyone (97%) had ‘definitely’ or ‘to some extent’ discussed the purpose of their medication – slightly less (93%) had conversations around its benefits.

Just under three in four (74%) reported having enough privacy to speak comfortably during the provision of NHS talking therapies.

Julian added that there needs to be a more national focus on preventative measures as well as early intervention.

He said: "It's clear that under-pressure services have more to do to ensure that people get timely, high-quality care and support but to aid trusts' efforts we need broader, cross-government action to address the gap between demand for mental health care and trusts' ability to provide it."

Image credit: iStock

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