The All Party Parliamentary Group on Mental Health, which is chaired by Charles Walker MP who recently spoke movingly in Parliament about his experience of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), is urging the Government to stay vigilant about giving mental health a fair deal as NHS reforms kick in.
After a year long inquiry into the effect that the reforms contained in the Health and Social Care Act would have on both mental health services and those using them the Group has released Health and Social Care reform: Making it work for mental health (attached). The report by the APPG MH highlights four key areas of concern:
1. Commissioning: GPs may not possess enough knowledge of mental health problems to commission services effectively. Services that are commissioned must reflect the needs of people with mental health problems, to avoid good care becoming a postcode lottery
2. Local Decision Making: There is a need to ensure mental health features prominently in local health plans, so that people with mental health problems are encouraged to play a part in local decision making processes, and that public health professionals understand that mental health sits in their remit.
3. Integrated Care: Too many people find themselves lost in a maze of assessments when trying to access the health and social care services they need. Joining up services and simplifying access is an urgent priority.
4. Personalisation and Patient Choice: Too few people can access personal health budgets and many more do not understand their purpose. Increasing awareness of personal health budgets and supporting people to use them will allow them to take control of their health care.
The inquiry, which was supported by Mind, Rethink Mental Illness and the Royal College of Psychiatrists, heard evidence from mental health service users, voluntary sector providers, health professionals, the Minister for Care Services and others. The major areas of concern are around whether or not GPs are ready or able to commission mental services as evidence suggests that they still lack the confidence to do this. The APPG MH is also worried about how the new NHS system will provide integrated care for people with mental health problems, so that they don't face a complicated maze of stressful assessments.
Charles Walker MP, Chair of the APPG MH, said:
"This report comes at a cross roads for mental health: the coalition Government has promised to grant mental health the same level of importance as physical health, but there is work to do to make this a reality.
"During our inquiry, people who use mental health services told us they find it hard to get easy access to the choice of services they need, whilst commissioners told us they need help to understand what good mental health services look like.
"We hope local health groups will understand that they need to actively speak to people who use services to understand how they can secure on-going improvements for mental health."
View the full report by The APPG MH