Access to health and care services becoming ‘more and more difficult’ – CQC warn

It is becoming “more and more” difficult” for patients to access health and care services, inspectors have warned.

Patients are generally getting good care when they can access it, but are struggling to access services, MPs were told.

Care Quality Commission (CQC) leaders told the Health and Social Care Committee that patients in England are waiting longer to see their GP, struggling to get care at home and face barriers accessing mental health services.

“People are generally getting good care, if they go to a GP or a hospital or go and have home care they get generally good care,” CQC chief executive Ian Trenholm said.

“What we’ve seen over a number of years is an upward trajectory in terms of the quality of care they receive at a location.

“I think what we’ve identified this year though is that people’s ability to access that care is becoming more and more difficult.

“So what happens is that people are waiting longer to see their GPs, they are finding it much more difficult to get the care in their own home that they need, which means they’re more likely to end up in hospital and they’re more likely to end up staying there once they are there and less likely to be able to leave.

“We found the system isn’t necessarily working in the way that it could do.”

Meanwhile Prof Ted Baker, CQC’s chief inspector of hospitals, was probed about mental health care, including some inpatients being shipped miles from home for help.

He told MPs: “Mental health services are doing a lot to improve and often the message is that if you get into a service you get very good care.

“The problem we hear is about access, that people cannot access the service they want.

“You are talking about out of area placements, and certainly we saw patients sometimes being placed 600 miles away from home which clearly appropriate for patients with mental health needs in inpatient services.

“So we have argued, that [there is] a need to focus more on commissioning services closer to homes.”

He also referenced a case study in CQC’s report on children and young people’s mental health care, published earlier this year, where one case study claimed they had to threaten suicide in order to receive care.

“[There was] a very strong message from the young people themselves about the difficulty they face accessing mental health services.

“There is one story in there from a young girl where she is saying ‘do I have to threaten suicide before I can get any care?’

“That is the kind of crisis that some patients with mental health problems have to go through before the system provides care for them.”

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