Experience of NHS Community mental health services at its lowest in 8 years

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has recently released the results of the 2021 Community Mental Health Survey. Participants reflected on their care over the last twelve months, with some interesting findings.

Many people have had negative experiences with NHS community mental health services. It was consistently reported that people felt changes to their care and treatment had further damaged their mental health because of the Covid-19 pandemic. The experience of using community mental health care is at its lowest point in an eight-year period.

The statistics are somewhat bleak. Only 41% of people thought that they had definitely seen enough services for their needs, and 23% did not get the help they needed regarding crisis care. Only 50% of people were happy that they were involved in deciding what therapies to use, leaving the other half dissatisfied.

The experience also varies massively for different demographics. For instance, those with psychotic disorders and psychosis reported better than average experiences with care, whereas those with non-psychotic disorders reported lower than average experiences. Younger people aged 18-35 had worse experiences, but those aged 66-80 had better experiences.

This report comes when mental health is at an all-time low. Numerous news articles describe how the NHS is being pushed to breaking point by the demand for mental health services, and the scale of improvements is not enough.

The recent pandemic has worsened mental health, especially of young people. It is estimated that one in six young people had a diagnosable mental health condition in 2020, which has increased from one in nine in 2017.

This survey illustrates the dismal reality of mental health care services in the United Kingdom. At a time when mental health care is essential, it is concerning to see how poorly national services are responding to the needs of the people who require it the most. The pandemic has strained the NHS and all the staff working there, with perhaps mental health services being affected the worst.

However, there is a small silver lining to this report. 96% of people surveyed said that they knew who organised their care and how to contact them, with a further 90% saying that this person organised their care well. Still, this is a small counterweight to the vast negativity of the overall report and can’t eclipse the massive failings of community mental health care.

So, what can we learn from this? The first thing is that the NHS is criminally underfunded. While expansion is underway, we have all seen how the service has struggled in recent years. More funding is required for mental health services, and it should constantly be a priority. It is too vitally important to struggle for funding consistently. There is no way mental health services can be overfunded – the more financial support it can get, the better.

The government consistently sidelines mental health, and as the report reveals, many people continue to struggle to access the help they desperately need. This was shown recently by the hastily cancelled decision to close four mental health centres in Devon. The original plan was to shut down the services and use the £480,000 budget to provide flexible community services instead; however, this plan was quickly scrapped due to protests from those who use the service.

Although the council wanted to keep the services, they wanted to move away from a buildings-based service. This seems like an excellent idea on the surface, as increasing amounts of people prefer to access online services, and the Covid-19 pandemic shows no signs of slowing down yet. However, residents of Devon showed they prioritised face-to-face interactions, stating that the centres and drop-in services they provided were safe spaces.

The CQC survey also shows that the wait for care is far too long. Many people struggle to access care and couldn’t find services when they needed them the most. Almost one-quarter of all people surveyed did not get the help they needed in a mental health crisis.

The main takeaway of this survey is that the quality of mental health care in the United Kingdom is too low. Public services need more funding to improve access to mental health care so that people can find and access the help that they so desperately need. Mental health continues to grow worse across the population, and mental health services must keep up with the growing demand for quality care.

Other solutions are needed to combat this crisis. More people will be turning towards private solutions as the NHS fails to meet people’s needs. Orchestrate Health offers bespoke mental health services that people will be able to access from the comfort of their own homes or within their community, with rapid response times and even daily visits if needed. Orchestrate Health can provide more support than publicly funded services may be able to offer, and even remove the inconvenience of travelling to and from appointments. Long waiting lists and inadequate support will drive people away from public services, and private services will need to be equipped to pick up the slack.

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