Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Mental Health double standards - new findings

So, you go to A&E with a potentially life-threatening set of symptoms. You've had to wait since the previous evening, since A&E was shut overnight. It is well over 4 hours before anyone talks to you, when they do the staff are rude and unhelpful, and when you are finally treated it doesn't actually help.

A&E isn't great, but it's not usually this bad. Yet according to new research from Mind, the experience above is normal for patients with mental health problems. Here's some of the findings:

  • Services are understaffed: Four in ten mental health trusts (41 per cent) have staffing levels well below established benchmarks.
  • People are not getting the help they need: There is huge variation in the numbers of people accessing crisis care services and one in five people (18 per cent) who came into contact with NHS services in crisis was not assessed at all. Only 14 per cent of people said that, overall, they felt they had all the support they needed when in crisis.
  • People aren’t assessed quickly enough: Only a third (33 per cent) of respondents who came into contact with NHS services when in crisis were assessed within four hours, as recommended by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE).
The Mind Chief Exec made this startling comment Good services can make a huge difference to whether someone recovers from the crisis, yet Mind often hears from people who have been turned away because they ‘aren’t suicidal enough’ or who have been made to wait around for hours just to be seen by someone who can help them. An emergency is an emergency.

Just imagine being turned away from the doctors because 'your leg isn't broken enough' or because your chest pains haven't yet turned into a full-blown coronary. I was hopeful that this government, having talked a good game about mental health during the election campaign, might actually address the health apartheid that exists between physical health services and mental health services. It sounds like that revolution is still a long way off. 

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