Mental health services 'failing' patients

People with mental health problems are being failed due to poor access to key community services. a Healthcare Commission report has said.

The report, which reviewed 174 mental health teams - known as Local Implementation Teams - in England, said that there needed to be improved access to talking therapies, out-of-hours crisis care and information for people who use services.

The report said that the availability of crisis services out of hours was "variable."

The majority of LITs (87%) had crisis resolution teams that were able to provide out-of-hours services.

However, the report found that only 49% of people who used the services said that they had the phone number of someone that they could contact out-of-hours.

Fifty-nine per cent also scored poorly when it came to providing access to crisis accommodation out-of-hours.

The report also highlighted a greater need for access to talking therapies.

According to national guidance, all people with schizophrenia or suspected schizophrenia should be offered appropriate talking therapies.

However, the report found that only half of those people surveyed had access to talking therapies, while in 20% of LIT areas, the figure was "significantly lower".

The report also said that the management of medicines for patients with schizophrenia needed to improve.

Eighty-four per cent of LITs rated fair or weak on the management of medicines for patients with schizophrenia, while 89% had not adequately recorded side effects or how well patients had responded to drugs on individual's care records.

A need for improvement in the monitoring of physical health checks of patients within mental health services was also identified.

The review found that in 28% of LITs the frequency or need for physical health checks was not recorded on care plans.

Overall, 9% of LITs were rated as "excellent", 45% as "good", 43% as "fair" and 3% as "weak".

Anna Walker, the Healthcare Commission's Chief Executive, said: "The majority of people who suffer from mental illness receive their treatment in their own community, not in hospital. They want to remain in the community and this helps them get better. But for care in the community to work for the mentally ill, more access is needed to talking therapies and out-of-hours crisis care. Mental health crises don't keep office hours and the service must be flexible enough to tackle this.

"This review shows us where in the country the strengths and weaknesses lie. We will be working with the weak performers to improve quality of their services and bring them in line with those who are excellent."

A national report on the findings is due out later this year.


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