#Slave #Britain: #NHS mental health services can no longer cope

????????????????Mental health services in the UK have long been known as the ‘poor relation’ compared to other health services when it comes to the allocation of cash and resources. An investigation by the BBC and Community Care shows just how dire the situation is for staff and patients.

The BBC and Community Care submitted freedom of information requests to 53 of England’s 58 mental health trusts, of which 46 replied.

Data from the requests shows that there has been a reduction of mental health beds for the period 2011 to 2012 by 9% in an attempt to cut costs as mental health services see their budget dwindle every year. This at a time when there is more demand for mental health services.

The data also shows that 28 of the trusts are running above the occupancy level of 85% recommended by the Royal College of Psychiatrists, with half of those operating in excess of 100%.

Dr Martin Baggaley, a psychiatrist who is medical director of the South London and Maudsley NHS Trust, told the BBC: “We are in a real crisis at the moment. I think currently the system is inefficient, unsafe.

“We’re certainly feeling it on the frontline, it’s very pressured, and we spend a lot of our time struggling to find beds, sending people across the country which is really not what I want to do.”

At the time of speaking he said he had 50 patients in beds outside his trust, including some in Somerset, and no beds were available in London.

Lamb said: “Current levels of access to mental health treatment are unacceptable. There is an institutional bias in the NHS against mental health and I am determined to end this.

“More people are being treated in the right settings for them, including fewer people needing to go into hospitals. It is essential that people get the treatment they need early and in the community but beds must be available if patients need them.”

Care Minister Norman Lamb said: “Current levels of access to mental health treatment are unacceptable. There is an institutional bias in the NHS against mental health and I am determined to end this.

“More people are being treated in the right settings for them, including fewer people needing to go into hospitals. It is essential that people get the treatment they need early and in the community but beds must be available if patients need them.”

The continual squeezing of the mental health budget combined with inefficient organisational management structures has resulted in less resources being available for front-line services.

Many trusts have closed local mental health facilities in a bid to centralise services and save money, which means that patient access in a crisis is severely reduced, or they are forced to travel long distances to try and obtain help from already overstretched services.

Although the focus of mental health services has been to move more into community treatment which is often more appropriate for the patient, they have also felt the effects of budgets cuts to health and social care.

Access to outpatient services such as psychology generally involves the patient waiting months to be assessed, in some cases it can be as long as two years – this is before any appropriate intervention takes place.

Community services are often left in a situation where they are ‘fire-fighting’ – trying to find available resources which will help keep patients out of hospital – which often means the patient may be placed with community teams who are not the most appropriate, and which is a potentially dangerous situation for the patient as teams try to do the best they can with ever decreasing resources and pressure from trust management to cover the short-fall in services.

The gradual decline in mental health services is nothing new, and has been commented on many times before. The erosion of appropriate treatment and care through successive budget cuts and inefficient, over managed services affects patients – especially those who may be trying to get help for the first time.

Although Lamb may claim that the current situation is unacceptable, it is his (and previous governments) who are (at least) partly responsible. Cutting welfare budgets and expecting NHS trusts to constantly engage in more and more useless management initiatives and monitoring/targets takes resources away from there they are needed – the front line.  

Follow @martynjsymons

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