Rapid access to acute care and an end to sending acutely unwell mental health patients long distances are among the recommendations made in a new report launched today by an Independent Commission led by Lord Nigel Crisp and supported by the Royal College of Psychiatrists.
The Commission was set up in 2015 to address the issues facing adult patients in England needing acute care for mental health problems.
In 2014/15, 1.8 million people in England used mental health services, with 103,840 being admitted to hospital.
Around 500 mentally ill people are estimated to have to travel over 50km to be admitted into hospital every month. The report highlights the problem of delayed discharges or lack of alternatives to admission as a symptom of far more widespread problems in the functioning of the whole mental health system. The report subsequently recommends significant changes are made to the commissioning, organisation and monitoring of mental health services.
The Commission’s report is clear that people with mental health problems should have the same rapid access to high quality care as patients with physical health problems. It proposes the introduction of firm targets for improvement combined with new approaches to quality, data management, innovation and investment.
National and local government need to act to redress the balance and ensure that mental health receives equal priority and funding with physical health. Commissioners and providers, also have a responsibility to lead change, focus on quality and improve the way their organisations and the whole system works.
Key recommendations from the report include:
- The introduction by October 2017 of a maximum waiting time of four hours for admission to an acute psychiatric ward for adults or acceptance for home based treatment following assessment.
- Phasing out nationally the practice of sending acutely ill patients long distances for non-specialist treatment by October 2017.
- More investment in home-based treatment, information systems and staff.
- That patients and carers are enabled to play an even greater role in their own care as well as in service design, provision, monitoring and governance.
- The piloting of a Patients and Carers Race Equality Standard in mental health alongside other efforts to improve the experience of care for people from Black and Minority Ethnic communities.
Responding to the Commission’s report, Stephen Dalton, Chief Executive, Mental Health Network, said:
“Government rhetoric about prioritising mental health does not match the reality of shrinking funding and hard-working staff struggling to cope with growing public need.
"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.
“The report rightly says this is not just about beds but is about understanding why people are admitted and why it can be difficult to discharge some people. The real answer is to ensure people can get care when and where they need it most.
“In recent years investment in mental health services has been falling. It is now urgent that this trend is halted and that we see NHS England get investment directly to the frontline of provision."
Read the summary list of recommendations.
Read the full report.