Report finds ‘widespread problems’ in mental care

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An Independent Commission has found access to acute care for severely ill mental health patients to be ‘inadequate’ nationally and ‘potentially dangerous’ for some.

It also reported major problems in admissions to psychiatric wards and in providing alternative care and treatment in the community, stating that ‘these two sets of problems are intimately connected and need to be tackled together.’

The report was published this week by the independent Commission on Acute Adult Psychiatric Care, which was set up by the Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCP) in January 2015 in response to widespread concerns about the provision of acute inpatient psychiatric beds in many parts of England and Northern Ireland.

Chair of the Commission, and formerly Chief Executive of the NHS in England and Permanent Secretary of the Department of Health from 2000 to 2006, Lord Nigel Crisp said: ‘It is time to end the difference in standards between mental and physical illnesses. People with severe mental illnesses need to be able to find care just as quickly as people suffering from physical illnesses - and they shouldn’t have to travel long distances to do so.’

President of the RCP, Professor Sir Simon Wessely said: ‘Everyone agrees that it is a scandal that patients with serious mental disorders who need admission can end up being sent anywhere from Cornwall to Cumbria in a search for a bed.  And yet it continues.’

He went on to explain that the answers lie, not just by providing more beds, but in assessing the entire system.

Professor Wessely explained: ‘In particular we stand alongside Lord Crisp in asking that there is a new pledge for a maximum four hour wait for admission or home treatment by 2017, and that the unacceptable practice of sending seriously sick patients around the country is ended by the same date.’ He added: ‘If we were talking strokes, heart attacks or cancer, we wouldn’t even have to ask.’