A Healthcare Commission survey of community mental health service users in England today revealed significant gaps remain over access to counselling and employment support.
The regulator’s poll of 15,900 users, revealed over a third of those who wanted talking treatments were denied them, despite National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence guidance saying they should be available to treat common mental health problems.
Over half of those who wanted help with work and almost a third wanting support with benefits did not receive help. The annual survey, now in its fourth year, found that only 20% of users were in employment, compared to a national employment rate of 74%.
Around 76% of people said the services they received were good, very good or excellent, on a par with previous years.
Improvements were seen in relationships with psychiatrists and access to care plans on previous years. But although the proportion of service users given an out-of-hours contact number rose 3% since 2006, 48% still did not have access to such crisis support.
The Mental Health Foundation said the results were “disappointing” and demonstrated “little improvement” in the level of care provided to service users.
Mind and Rethink gave the survey a more positive response, but the former’s head of policy, Marcus Roberts, said the lack of access to talking therapies was “worrying” and that the low employment rate reflected the lack of work support.
Rethink director of public affairs Paul Corry said improvements reflected the government’s investment in community services since 1999, but called on the Treasury to commit adequate extra funding in the forthcoming comprehensive spending review, which will set government expenditure limits for 2008-11.
Steve Schrub, director of the NHS confederation’s mental health network, which represents mental health trusts, acknowledged that there were “concerning gaps” in community services but said trusts were working hard to improve provision.