The Care Quality Commission has reviewed help given to people in mental health crisis and concluded that services are, and I quote, “inadequate”. In case you are wondering, this includes those who are suicidal or having major panic attacks. The system, they add, “is struggling to cope”. What a shock this isn’t.
At the centre of this are two things: the 8% cut in mental health funding since 2010 and the increase in numbers of those seeking help. So less money is being spent treating more people. That makes sense, doesn’t it?
My loyal reader will be well familiar, over familiar I’d suggest, with my contempt for successive governments, but especially the last one, which talked a good game over mental health but played a rather different one. I have been aware for some time of the anecdotal information that had been coming to light and how disturbing it was, but the Care Quality Commission review is evidence based and cannot be dismissed. Surveys of patients, a full analysis of national data and inspections have revealed that 42% of patients did not get the care they needed. That’s not far off half of all sufferers receiving less than satisfactory treatment, but it’s actually worse than that. Some of those going through a mental health crisis are either not getting treated quickly enough and some are not being treated at all.
We have used this comparison before, but the truth is that we think nothing of demanding and expecting urgent treatment for someone going through a physical crisis. We have systems in place and it is a given that someone going through a life-threatening physical health issue will receive urgent treatment. But as ever for mental health, our country seems closer to the attitudes of Katie Hopkins with her “get over yourself” attitude. I am just waiting for David Cameron to appoint her as the country’s mental health tsar.
The Care minister Alistair Burt has said the government is trying to improve mental health services. “Improving mental health care is my priority,” he added. Of course it is, Alistair. That’s why the government is spending much less than it used to on mental health services. Pull the other one.
When you are grappling with the depths of mental illness, that is when you truly find out the paucity of treatments which are available.
With mental health, we are talking about ruined lives. Don’t we owe it to our fellow men and women (and children) to ensure that when they are ill, mentally as well as physically, that there is an NHS that takes them more seriously? It certainly doesn’t at the moment.