Adults with severe mental illnesses are struggling to get support, as ‘core’ mental health services have been left behind by the government’s mental health strategy, according to a report published by the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Mental Health today.
Published ahead of the NHS long-term plan next month, the APPG on Mental Health inquiry concludes that core services are all but overwhelmed for lack of resource, with growing demand resulting in waits for treatment measured in months rather than weeks and patients travelling the length of the country to find treatment.
People with severe mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, rely on core services for their treatment. Around 700,000 people in England are receiving help from community mental health teams, a type of core service which delivered 14 million care contacts in 2016/17.
While investment in specialist services such as perinatal and early intervention in psychosis has produced massive successes, core services still need urgent attention.
The report recommends increased investment in core mental health services to prevent people who are most ill receiving the worst care. This call follows the Prime Minister’s repeated commitment to invest in mental health until there is ‘parity of esteem’ between physical and mental health.
Core mental health services are the community mental health teams, crisis teams and inpatient units that provide support to adults and older adults severely affected by mental illness. 37 per cent of core mental health services were rated as ‘requires improvement’ and 2 per cent as ‘inadequate’ by the CQC at July 2018.
One service user told the inquiry that they had been told to lie to services designed for mild to moderate conditions about the severity of their psychosis to get help; another service user received treatment for her secondary diagnosis of an eating disorder because there was no adult core service able to treat her primary diagnosis of personality disorder.
Chair of APPG on Mental Health Helen Whately MP said: “We know change is possible because we have achieved so much since 2016, with 89% of people receiving treatment in IAPT within six weeks and 74% of people experiencing their first case of psychosis getting treatment within two weeks. But it cannot be right, as we heard in the inquiry, that people severely affected by mental illnesses are being told to lie and downplay the severity of their symptoms in order to get help.
“It is absolutely vital that core services for adults with severe mental illnesses are made a priority in the long-term plan.”
The report makes 24 wide-ranging recommendations but identifies improving core mental health services as an area requiring urgent attention, alongside increasing and diversifying the mental health workforce and establishing better oversight and collective responsibility for mental health.
The report is the sum of over 70 pieces of evidence from service users, professionals and stakeholders including NHS England National Mental Health Director Claire Murdoch and NHS Improvement Tim Kendall.
Rethink Mental Illness and the Royal College of Psychiatrists jointly provide the secretariat for the All Party Parliamentary Group on Mental Health and co-authored the report.
Download the report On the road to parity, here.