Growing numbers of mental health patients feel that mental health social workers and their NHS colleagues don’t provide enough support for physical health needs, a survey has found.
The Care Quality Commission’s (CQC) 2012 survey of people using community mental health services found that 36% of patients ‘who needed support’ for their physical needs had not received any, up 5% from the previous year. The number of patients who did not get help with their care responsibilities, despite needing it, rose from 35% to 39%.
Most respondents were positive that the health and social care worker they saw most recently had listened to them carefully (79%), taken their views into account (73%) and treated them with respect and dignity (87%).
But other findings raised question marks over the degree to which mental health trusts are following national guidance on the care programme approach (CPA). National guidelines state that service users on the CPA should receive support with employment, housing and finance from mental health services if they need it.
Despite marginal improvements from 2011’s findings, around a third of patients (34%) on the CPA said they had not been given help finding work. Around a quarter of CPA patients said they had not received advice on finance (26%) and accommodation (27%).
Guidelines also recommend yearly reviews for people on the CPA. But 24% of patients said they had not had a care review meeting in the past 12 months.
David Behan, CQC chief executive, said this year’s survey of 15,000 patients had shown ‘evidence of progress’ in some areas but said NHS trusts needed to consider whether they “are assessing people’s needs properly” in the context of CPA policy.
“One of the objectives in the [government’s mental health strategy] is that more people with mental health problems will have good physical health,” he said.
“The fact that this survey has shown some people who need this support are not getting access to this, and other support for aspects of day to day living such as employment, housing and financial advice is something the NHS needs to address.”
One in ten CPA patients were unable to identify their lead clinician, down from 12% last year. Most who could identify their care-coordinator were broadly positive, and said the professional organises care services ‘very well’ (61%) or ‘quite well’ (31%).
Half of patients not on the CPA had not received help in finding or keeping work. Some 49% had not received housing help and 47% had not been given support in handling finance or benefits.
Paddy Cooney, interim director of the NHS Confederation’s mental health network, said:
“There is a significant relationship between mental and physical health, so a big priority will be looking at how service users’ physical health needs can be better met. This is something which needs input from all parts of the health service.”