The New Worker
The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain
Week commencing 19th February 2016
A REPORT released last week into the future needs of Britain’s mental health services revealed that three quarters of mental health patients are not getting any help at all. At the same time there is a steep rise in the number of people killing themselves.
The report, A Five Year Forward View for Mental Health, was commissioned by the Government and put together by Paul Farmer, chief executive of the mental health charity Mind.
The Government delayed its publication by months, releasing it just as David Cameron was about to announce a transformation in mental health services.
Whilst the prime minister is boasting of his focus on mental health six years after he pledged to put mental wellbeing at the centre of his government, his own taskforce has condemned years of underinvestment and laid a significant portion of the blame on the current administration.
New mothers are amongst those seriously failed by the system. With one in 10 women developing a mental illness during or after pregnancy, including postpartum psychosis, not all are lucky enough to be cared for in a specialist mother and baby unit.
The report shows that the situation is dire despite promises of reform. “Many people struggle to get the right help at the right time, and evidence-based care is underfunded,” it says. “The human cost is unacceptable and the financial cost is unaffordable.”
And it adds that controversial changes introduced in 2012 to the health service may even have made things worse by complicating the way treatment is delivered. It reveals that the suicide rate in England is now rising “following many years of decline”, with 4,477 people killing themselves in an average year.
There has been a 10 per cent increase in the number of people sectioned under the Mental Health Act over the past year.
In some parts of the coun try more than 10 per cent of children seeking help are having appointments with specialists cancelled as a result of staff shortages; yet one in 10 children and young people has a diagnosable mental health problem.
A quarter of people with severe mental health problems need more support than is currently on offer and many are at serious risk of self-neglect. Despite the known impact of untreated postnatal mental health problems, less than 15 per cent of areas provide effective services for women and 40 per cent provide no service at all.
Figures from 2013—2014 show that the average waiting time for a child seeking a routine appointment with a mental health practitioner was 21 weeks, up from 15 weeks the year before.
The average maximum wait for a community mental health team appointment is 30 weeks and mental health wards are far busier than guidelines allow.
The report says ministers need to find an extra £1.2 billion a year for mental health services by 2020. But in January the prime minister announced that only an extra £290m would be spent up to 2020 on mental health, in particular for psychological problems related to childbirth.
Brian Dow, a director of Rethink Mental Illness, said: “For many decades the treatment of mental health in the UK has lagged far behind the care and support available for physical health. Despite affecting one in four people and being both the largest single cost across the NHS and the most common reason for days lost from work, mental health has been neglected, to the detriment of those who live with and care for those affected.
“Just this week I heard from a 20-year-old supporter called Tom who has been diagnosed with depression and a personality disorder. Over the years he has made several attempts on his life. The first time it happened, his mother Rebecca took him to A&E, only to be told there was nowhere for him to stay. The solution for this common health problem? She was told to drive her son the 110-mile-journey from Norwich to London, to the nearest bed.
“That wouldn’t have happened if Tom was having a stroke or a heart attack.”