Think Tank Urges Mental Health Choice

A think tank report has suggested that only the introduction of patient choice and competition can succeed in delivering better NHS mental health services. Published by the centre-right Reform group, the study said that current services concentrate on the most seriously mentally ill and that more resources should be diverted to community care.

Author Nick Bosanquet, professor of health policy at Imperial College, London, argued for the introduction of choice – including new direct payments to empower patients – and a long-term partnership with the private and voluntary sectors.

He said the postponement of the introduction of payment by results to mental health services was a major blow but that the redeployment of resources will reduce waits dramatically for the vast majority of sufferers.

“Mental health services have been left out of the mainstream of NHS policy for too long,” he said. “Modern thinking has not been applied to a key illness of modern society.”

The report claimed that the principles of competition and choice are consistent with the aim of helping patients to regain independence, which is at the heart of modern mental health treatment.

It found that funding increases have been concentrated on long-term hospital stays and compulsory treatment.

As a result, community services are inadequate, waiting times are extremely long, and most patients, suffering from depression or anxiety may never see a mental health specialist.