Blog > “The simple fact is that we need to see investment. Mental health problems account for 23 per cent of the ‘burden of disease’ in the NHS but only gets around 13 per cent of the budget. This has to change.”


30
October

Geoff Heyes, policy and campaigns manager, MIND

“The simple fact is that we need to see investment. Mental health problems account for 23 per cent of the ‘burden of disease’ in the NHS but only gets around 13 per cent of the budget. This has to change.”

As one of the leading mental health charities in England and Wales, Mind regularly interact with service users and as a result, understand people’s experiences of mental health services better than most. While the damning results of the recent 2015 Community Mental Health Survey were not surprising to them, the data is a transparent reflection of the very problems facing the NHS mental health service that they are working so hard to promote awareness of.

Geoff Heyes, Policy and Campaigns Manager shares his views on the current state of mental health service provision and why such robust evidence of people’s experiences is so important in achieving care improvements.

Were any of the 2015 Community Mental Health Survey insights surprising in your eyes?

Reports like this are rarely surprising to people working in mental health because we talk every day to people about their experiences of services. That said, we need this kind of robust data to show the extent of the problems facing NHS mental health services at the moment, so that we can make the case for investment and improvement.

“We need robust data like the 2015 Community Health Survey to show the extent of the problems facing NHS mental health services at the moment, so that we can make the case for investment and improvement”

For us the survey results are among a number of alarming signs that services are under pressure. We know that NHS mental health services are really struggling at the moment as budgets have been cut at a time when demand is rising. The impact of these cuts is clearly falling squarely on the quality of care people are receiving and it just isn’t good enough.

Community care is essential to keeping people well enough to stay at home and out of hospital but it is failing. Without good community care, people risk becoming more unwell and needing more intensive – and expensive – support further down the line. We need to see urgent investment in mental health services so that people get the help they need, when they need it.

What are the most common service user experiences people share with you?
We know people often struggle to access the help they need, when they need it. Right through the system, from primary care to crisis care, we see waiting times, delays and services squeezed because they are under so much pressure. The impact is people become more unwell and need more intensive support further down the line.

Do you have any thoughts on why service experiences have declined?
There are a combination of factors at play. NHS mental health services have been underfunded for decades and this neglect has been compounded by cuts of eight per cent in the last five years. At the same time, demand for services is rising.

How do you think improvements could be made?  Is there one thing that would make a difference to service quality, or multiple issues that need to be addressed,  e.g. service over burden, funding cuts, self-diagnosis culture etc..? In your statement you mentioned funding as a core issue, but are there any other issues that need to be addressed outside of that, or would improved funding have a positive knock on effect on all areas?

“The simple fact is that we need to see investment. Mental health problems account for 23 per cent of the ‘burden of disease’ in the NHS but only gets around 13 per cent of the budget. This has to change.”

The treatment gap for mental health is huge, so we are only going to see more and more people in need of help in future.

It’s not just about funding in NHS services.  At the moment only a tiny proportion of the public health budget is spent on preventative programmes for mental health problems, yet we know that prevention can work really well and would reduce the numbers of people in need of NHS services.

The other factor is national and local government, public services, schools, employers and communities all need to embrace the idea that mental health isn’t just about the NHS. We all have mental health, just as we all have physical health, and it can affect and be affected by every aspect of our lives. Every part of society needs to look at what it can do to improve mental wellbeing.

How are Mind working to support care improvement?
Our network of local Minds directly deliver services and many of them work on prevention and have services into which people can self-refer.

At a national level we are campaigning for change, giving people a voice and working with the Department of Health, NHS England and other key bodies to improve services. Our chief executive Paul Farmer is currently the independent co-chair of NHS England’s taskforce on mental health, due to report shortly.

We also provide advice and information so that people know what help is available and how to access it.

Are there any existing support services that the NHS could better signpost and draw on?
The third sector plays a key role in delivering services. We are not just here to signpost to, but we are also a great source of examples of innovative best practice and expertise on what works.

Have you seen any examples of the negative knock on effects of mental health service experiences?

“Trust is really important in mental health services. When someone has a poor experience, it can weaken their will to try and engage again.”

If people fall out of services altogether then they are left to struggle by themselves and may reach crisis point. Services that are person centred and empowering, involve people in decisions about their own care and treat everyone with respect and dignity, can have a huge impact on a person’s experience and recovery.

Following the introduction of a Shadow Minister of Mental Health, and the resurgence of the mental health taskforce, do you think 2016 will paint a more encouraging picture of service provision?

We were really pleased to see the Labour party showing such clear commitment to mental health, we look forward to working with Luciana Berger MP and her team in her new role.

We don’t yet know what responsibilities the post will include, or whether the role will be solely about mental health, but we are very much encouraged to hear ‘mental health’ explicitly referenced while the shadow cabinet is being assembled.

“Mental health problems are very common and will affect one in four of us in the next year.”

Despite this, for decades mental health service provision has lagged far behind the standards of care we take for granted when it comes to our physical health. We have seen in recent years a commitment from all political parties to addressing this huge imbalance but there is still a very long way to go.

“Parties are also starting to understand that mental health is about much more than NHS service provision. It affects and is affected by all areas of our lives. We expect the new shadow minister to make sure that mental health is on everyone’s agenda, recognising the impact that all areas of public policy can have on everyone’s wellbeing.

For more information, see the Mind website

Geoff Heyes, Policy and Campaign Manager, Mind

Geoff Heyes, Policy and Campaign Manager, Mind

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