In its annual State of Care report, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) – the independent regulator of health and social care services in England – has found some improvements in mental health services, but has also highlighted areas of concern and challenges that services must overcome around high demand, workforce shortages, unsuitable facilities and outdated services.
While there have been many improvements, a greater proportion of mental health services were found to have deteriorated in quality compared with other parts of the NHS. Of services originally rated as good, 26 per cent of mental health services dropped at least one rating. This is in comparison to 23 per cent of adult social care services, 18 per cent of acute hospitals and two per cent of GP surgeries.
The CQC said it was surprised and concerned that 73 per cent of mental health beds are on locked rehabilitation wards, as it suggests an outdated approach to care in which people are institutionalised rather than helped to recover and live independently.
Also, many facilities were found not to meet safety standards, with fixtures and fittings that could be used in suicide attempts and examples of medicines not being stored securely.
Responding to the report, Chief Executive of Mind Paul Farmer said: “It’s very concerning to see that, as of July this year, more mental health services had deteriorated in quality than other parts of the NHS and that issues of safety, among others, have not been addressed despite being raised in previous reports. It shows the scale of the challenge facing NHS mental health services; we have a sound plan for starting to improve services over the next few years but after decades of neglect and underfunding it is going to take sustained effort and investment over many years to reverse the damage that has been done.
“That the CQC continues to highlight the same basic ward safety issues time and time again is very worrying. When someone is in hospital for their mental health, they are at their most vulnerable and they and their loved ones should be able to trust that they are receiving care in a safe, therapeutic environment. We are concerned to see that many facilities don’t meet the needs of people with mental health problems, and that inspections continue to reveal examples of outdated and sometimes institutionalised care.
“The prevalence of locked mental health rehabilitation wards is particularly alarming, and highlights the need for the review of the Mental Health Act recently announced by the Government. This review must thoroughly explore the problems with the current Act in full consultation with people with experience of being treated under it, so that future legislation is fit for purpose and put the rights and needs of the person in crisis first.
“Last year, a five year plan for improving mental health services was launched, with a commitment by the NHS to spend £1 billion more on mental health services by 2020-21. This is a good plan and we need to see it delivered in every local area. The CQC report reiterates the need for that funding to be invested in services on the ground, so that we can start building NHS mental health services that will carry us in to the future.”