Nationwide patient survey by CQC finds mental health care getting worse

Access to NHS mental health care is getting worse, according to a nationwide survey of patients carried out by the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

The poll of 12,551 people who received treatment for a mental health condition between September and November last year found “few” positives, the CQC report said.

The study found a decline in people’s experience of accessing care, with only 42% of respondents saying they “definitely” saw NHS mental health services often enough for their needs.

This is one percentage point lower than the previous year’s result and five percentage points lower than in 2014.

The poll also found almost one in three people (31%) did not know who to contact in the NHS out of hours if they had a mental health crisis.

Of people who did know who to contact and had attempted to do so in the previous year, most (80%) felt they at least partially received the help they needed during a crisis.

However, one in five people (20%) said they did not receive the help they needed during a crisis.

There was also a drop when it came to time spent with staff, with 57% of people saying they had enough time to discuss their needs and treatment.

This represented a drop of eight percentage points from a high of 65% in 2014 and is one percentage point lower than the previous year.

Meanwhile, only about half (52%) of respondents said the person or team they saw were “completely” aware of their treatment history.

Of those who agreed their care plan, 52% felt they were involved as much as they wanted to be in the process, down four percentage points since 2014.

The survey also found that younger people aged 18 to 35 reported worse than average experiences with NHS mental health care while older people reported better than average.

Marjorie Wallace (pictured), chief executive of the mental health charity Sane, said: “Four years ago we were promised a revolution in mental healthcare by the then government, but according to the CQC, far from services improving, there has been a downward spiral leaving many thousands of people with mental health problems neglected and under-treated.

“Sane’s experience from the many callers to our helpline is that people who are suicidal or self-harming are being sent home from A&E, with overburdened community teams often taking days to make urgent home visits, leaving patients, their families and carers with nowhere to turn.

“If the new government, following the new long-term plan, does not restore beds and staff for people in crisis, then the promised transformation in mental healthcare will fail.”

According to NHS England, one in four adults experience at least one mental health condition in any given year.

Professor Wendy Burn, president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: “This survey shows NHS mental health services are struggling to cope with rising demand.

“With the reduction in the number of psychiatric beds, there is even more pressure on community services where new investment has only just started to reach the frontline.

“Our recent workforce census found that one in 10 consultant psychiatrist places are unfilled – this is why we are calling for the number of medical school places to be doubled and a much greater focus on staff retention.”

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