Insight into community mental health care in 2017; a five part blog series
The publication of the 2017 Community Mental Health Survey, on 15 November 2017, offers some insights from over 12,000 people that use mental health services in England. Among other findings, the survey illustrates that many service users experience difficulties in accessing the care they need and when they need it.
In this penultimate blog in the series, Vicki Nash, who is Head of Policy and Campaigns at mental health charity Mind considers what the findings tell us about how support and wellbeing services are faring, and whether they are adequately signposted.
The new CQC Community Health Survey told us, yet again, that too many people with mental health problems aren’t getting the care and support that they need. But it also shows that by treating mental health problems in isolation, the full scope of people’s needs – often broader and more complex – are being overlooked.
Low incomes and social problems go hand in hand with mental health. Debt, financial insecurity, housing problems, unemployment and family breakdown can all be both cause and consequence of a mental health problem.
Physical health is also tightly linked. As stated in the Five Year Forward View for Mental Health, the mental health needs of people with long term physical conditions can often go unaddressed. People with severe mental health problems are three times more likely to attend A&E with an urgent physical health need, and five times more likely to be admitted as an emergency.
Mental health has to be understood in the context of a person’s whole life and their own priorities. The Community Mental Health Survey gets to the crux of this in asking: “Do the people you see through NHS mental health services help you with what is important to you?” With only 45 per cent of people saying that yes, they always did, it’s clear that services need to do more to work with people so as to provide the support that people need from the NHS.
The survey findings show that only a third (35 per cent) of people who would have liked help or advice finding support for their physical health needs, definitely received it. Similarly only 32 per cent of people said they definitely received help finding support for financial issues and benefits, and only 27 per cent when it comes to finding or being supported to stay in work. Mental health services may not have all the answers themselves, but we need to see services being more proactive in supporting people with their full scope of their needs, helping people to join up the dots so that they access the right support for them.
The new report also shows only 23 per cent were definitely given information about getting support from people who have experienced the same mental health needs. At Mind, we know how peer support can improve mental health, and we’ve run programmes to support people both in person and online.
Our extensive research shows that peer support improves people’s sense of wellbeing, their ability to connect with others, increase their sense of hope and improve their ability to make decisions and take action. The voluntary and community sectors deliver peer support projects for people with mental health problems, across age, gender, sexuality and ethnic background, meeting a vast range of needs and experiences.
These kinds of services need to be integrated into or offered alongside all mental health services, and we need to see resource made available to support these projects to continue, be of a high quality, and be sustained for the long term.
In the final blog in this five part series, CEO of Oxford Health, and chairman of the board at Picker, Stuart Bell summarises the points raised by our guest bloggers, and reviews what the findings tell us about person-centred care in community mental health services.
We’re Mind, the mental health charity. We provide advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem. We campaign to improve services, raise awareness and promote understanding. We won’t give up until everyone experiencing a mental health problem gets both support and respect. www.mind.org.uk