Too many community mental health patients are not getting the care they need, the Care Quality Commission said today, as it released the results of a survey of 17,000 service users in England.
It found that most people said health and social care workers listened carefully to them, gave them enough time for discussion and took their views into account.
However, only 43% of respondents said they were “definitely” told about possible side effects of their new medicines with 29% saying they had not been told at all.
It also showed that under half (48%) of respondents “definitely” understood what was in their care plan, while 15% were not sure and 9% did not understand it.
Nearly half of those surveyed did not know who to contact in a crisis outside normal office hours. Of those who said they wanted some form of talking therapy, 73% had received it but 27% had not.
The regulator surveyed patients aged 16 and over who had contact with specialist community mental health services from 66 NHS trusts between July and September last year.
Similar surveys were carried out from 2004-8 but these are not directly comparable because of changes to the scope of the client group covered, which now includes clients who do receive care under the care programme approach (CPA), as well as those who do not. Among other findings:
• 63% had been asked in the past year by someone in mental health services about any physical health needs they might have, but 37% were not asked.
• Of those who said they had physical health needs, 33% said they had not had enough support in getting help for them.
• Of those who needed it, 48% did not get help with finding or keeping work, 43% did not receive assistance with finding or keeping accommodation, and 40% had not been given help with financial advice or benefits;
• 44% did not have the number of someone from their NHS mental health service whom they could phone outside office hours.
Cynthia Bower, CQC chief executive, said: “In some respects the care offered to both groups of people – those on CPA and those who are not – is falling short of meeting the range of needs that they have.
“We know that involving people in their own care and ensuring they understand their treatment, helps people to get better faster. Yet these are the areas that need the most improvement.”
Rethink chief executive Paul Jenkins said the CQC’s findings echoed the mental health charity’s own research, which found a lack of access to talking therapies.
“We urge the government to look carefully at the research carried out by the CQC and by ourselves, and to recognise that in many areas the mental health system is already struggling,” he said. “Any cuts to services must be carefully thought through to eliminate the risk of further negative impact on service users.”
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