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Mental health services need to improve

2nd October 2006

17032006_headache.jpgIn its first review of adult community mental health services, the Healthcare Commission (HCC) has urged specialist community mental health services to improve access to talking therapies, out-of-hours crisis care and information for people who use services.

The Commission says that services are generally performing well, but that long-standing problems still remain.

One in six adults in the UK is affected by mental distress, with more people currently not working because of mental health problems than any other issue. The HCC therefore decided to assess adult community mental health services because of the high impact this could have on improving the nation’s mental health. 

Community mental health services are planned by Local Implementation Teams (LITs), bringing
together local NHS organisations, local authorities, voluntary and independent sector organisations, community groups, people who use services and carers.

The review assessed all 174 LITs in England against national standards; they found that 9% of LITs were rated as “excellent?, 45% as “good?, 43% as “fair? and only 3% as “weak?.

The areas of concern expressed in the report were:

- The availability of crisis services out of hours is variable.

- People need greater access to talking therapies.

- The management of medicines for patients with schizophrenia needs to improve.

- Monitoring of physical health checks of people within mental health services needs to improve.

- Access to information is mixed.

- Not enough people are getting help with employment. 

- Provision of services for black and minority ethnic groups could improve.

A national report on the findings is due out later in the year.

However, a national survey of more than 19,000 people who use community mental health services, also published by the HCC, shows that people who use community mental health services say that NHS staff are treating them with dignity and respect.  The survey none-the-less highlighted gaps still existing in out-of-hours crisis care, talking therapies and the availability of information to service users about their care.

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