Integrated mental health and housing support ‘could save nearly £1bn per year’

Almost £1 billion could be saved per year if integrated mental health and supported housing systems were in place across England, according to a report.

A report commissioned for the housing and support services provider Look Ahead estimates £950 million could be saved per year if integrated systems currently used in parts of London and the South East were scaled up.

Economics consultancy Europe Economics, which wrote the report, found that the models used by 167 individuals supported by Look Ahead Care and Support saved £5 million a year compared to hospital-based mental health care.

These include the integration of Crisis and Recovery Houses – community alternatives to in-patient psychiatric treatment; rehabilitation services providing accommodation and support to develop mental health stability and daily living skills, and support to help people adapt to community living from secure in-patient settings.

This money could be redirected to other public health needs, the report says, as the country recovers from the coronavirus pandemic.

Evidence suggests that benefits to integrating mental health, social care and housing support include better outcomes for individuals, freed up hospital demand and lower costs compared to hospital-based care.

A recent white paper from the Government set out proposals to bring together the NHS, social care and local government to make decisions with the aim of providing integrated care.

The Government has said it will set out proposed reforms of social care later this year.

The Look Ahead report has been backed by Conservative MP Paul Bristow and Liberal Democrat Lords spokesperson for Mental Health, Baroness Claire Tyler.

In a joint foreword, they said the report “demonstrates the benefits to patients, society and the taxpayer” from integrating services and shows the approach “can improve the quality of care while also creating cost efficiencies”.

Conservative MP Paul Bristow (pictured) said: “Reform of social care cannot be kicked further down the road. As we emerge from the pandemic, the need for mental health services will grow and the coming months offer an opportunity for reform every bit as profound as the creation of the NHS in 1948.

“Building on the proposals in this report, the government must put in place reforms which can command support across the political spectrum, ensuring they stand the test of time.”

Baroness Tyler added: “Most people think of the elderly when it comes to care – as indeed has been the case in my own family – but many other younger people and their families are affected too including those with learning difficulties, mental health problems and the homeless.

“We urgently need a national strategy for social care and long-term funding which works for everyone.”

Tower Hamlets Crisis House provides support for people in mental health crisis without them needing to be admitted to the “unfamiliar and potentially disruptive environment” of a psychiatric ward.

On average, individuals spend 22 days in the house compared to 41 days in acute hospital wards, and have readmission rates which are 5.5% lower than those of people treated in hospital.

Chris Hampson, chief executive of Look Ahead Care and Support, said: “It is already widely acknowledged in Government policy that integrated services lead to improved physical and mental health outcomes for individuals.

“We are pleased to launch this report today which we believe provides the missing piece of the jigsaw that is the financial case for scaling up these models in mental health services. We need to use this evidence to make the case for the integrated approach and scale it up.

“It makes sense not just for the public purse but for the quality of life of people accessing these services.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We are making sure everyone receiving care continues to get the very best support during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The government has provided billions of pounds of additional funding to the care sector, a further £10 million for mental health charities and are advocating digital tools that ensure vital mental health services remain open and available to people who need them.

“Delivering a care system that is fit for the future remains a top priority and, following new measures set out in the Health and Care Bill White Paper, we will bring forward proposals later this year.”

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