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Mental health services failing young and old

31st March 2009

Two reports published by the Healthcare Commission Equality in later life and Adult specialist community mental health services show significant failings in the care and treatment offered to mental health service users over and under 65 years old.

Highlights of the two reports include:

- Older people discriminated against in accessing psychological therapies, crisis care and other services

- Almost half of service users still have no access to out of hours crisis care

- 55% of people with schizophrenia have not been offered psychological therapies despite this being recommended by NICE schizophrenia guidelines

- Over 40% of people do not have a copy of their care plan

Commenting on the stark findings, Mind's Chief Executive Paul Farmer said:

"Mental health care isn't just about going to the doctor for a prescription, it involves a range of services of which emergency out-of hours care is a crucially important part.  Considering that everyone is meant to have round the clock access to crisis care, it is truly shocking that nearly half of mental health service users don't even have a contact number to call when they are in need. Crisis care is the A&E of mental health treatment - it's like not knowing how to dial 999."

"Although there have been some improvements, four in ten people still do not have a copy of their care plan, which sets out what treatment and care they should be receiving. Care plans should be given out automatically, and making sure this happens is one of the simplest improvements healthcare professionals can make. At a time when health care is moving towards greater patient choice and involvement, the most basic level of involvement still isn't happening."

"The situation is even worse for older people - one Trust reported that only 4% of referrals for talking therapies were for older people, while in some areas emergency crisis care isn't even available for the over 65s. This is more evidence that in mental health care, there is a culture of de-prioritising older people, who are picking up the leftovers of what treatment is available. Mental health care should be allotted according to need, not according to age."

 

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