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Tagged In:  Mental health

A recent report by an independent think-tank has made a number of key recommendations for improving access to mental health care across the UK.




Supported by the Royal College of Psychiatrists, the Commission on Acute Adult Psychiatric Care (CAAPC) was set up in January 2015, following widespread concerns about a 'postcode lottery' in mental health services. The Commission's recommendations include the introduction of a maximum waiting time of four hours for admission to an acute psychiatric ward for adults and phasing out nationally the practice of sending acutely ill patients long distances for non-specialist treatment.

According to the NHS Confederation, every month around 500 mentally ill people are estimated to have to travel over 50km to be admitted into hospital.  In November last year, the NSPCC highlighted concerns about regional differences in waiting times between referral and assessment by local Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS). Figures obtained from 35 NHS Mental Health Trusts showed variations between one week and 26 weeks.



As we reported in a previous blog post, the Government created the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) programme because of concerns about patients receiving timely treatment in certain parts of the country. The 2014-15 IAPT Annual Report shows that, although the national picture is improving, there are still significant variations in service delivery. While nationally 7.1% of referrals waited more than 90 days for treatment, the figure was 3.1% in the South of England and 9.7% in the North of England.

Workforce planning is also a major concern for health service senior management. In January The Guardian reported figures from the NHS's Health and Social Care Information Centre, showing that the number of specialist mental health nurses had fallen by over 10% in the last five years, from 41, 320 in 2010 to 36,870 in 2015. 



Earlier this year, the Government announced an extra £1 billion of investment in mental health (see this previous blog post), including support for new mothers and teenagers. While this was hailed as an important step forward, it's widely agreed that there's some way to go in evening out the regional variations in care. Responding to the CAAPC report, Mental Health Network Chief Executive Stephen Dalton commented, "The evidence presented by this useful report is clear that the postcode lottery of investment in mental health services in England is putting vulnerable people, including children, at risk." This was echoed by Mind Chief Executive Paul Farmer: "Mental health has historically been underfunded," said Mind Chief Executive Paul Farmer. "And the scandal of out of areas placements is a symptom of a mental health service in dire need of significant investment."

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