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Tuesday 25th October 2016

Mental health patients will be vulnerable

3rd February 2011

Author and writer on mental health issues Clare Allen fears that people with mental health problems will be particularly vulnerable under the changes to the health service.


While there are welcome commitments in the new NHS health and social care bill, there is no reappraisal of the proposal to hand responsibility for commissioning mental health services to GP consortia.

Included are services for people with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder as well as mild to moderate mental health problems along with those with drug or alcohol dependency.

The bill is hard to understand and what worries me is a suspicion that nobody else quite understands much of it either.

Mental health charity Rethink found that out of 500 GPs consulted, some 42% admitted they are worried about commissioning for mental health problems because of their lack of knowledge about services for severe mental illness.

With about a third of all GP appointments mental health-related, the system in surgeries is better suited to diagnosing and treating physical illness than it is to addressing mental health issues.

With consultations on average lasting seven minutes, there is a real danger that GPs perception of need “could be seriously distorted when it comes to mental health.”

As funding cuts bite, mental health is unlikely to fare well, which makes it even more important that mental health service users are represented on local healthwatch groups.

Many mental health users are in fatalistic mood, having already experienced service cuts but what was most noticeable was that no one appeared to feel that they had any power to influence the changes.


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