NHS heads: Cost constraints may stymie bid to limit antipsychotics

Cost constraints may dash bid to limit antipsychotics

Care services minister rules out government funding to expand mental health teams

Government-backed proposals to reduce the use of antipsychotic drugs on care home residents with dementia could be threatened by a lack of resources, NHS leaders have warned.

A report last week into the inappropriate prescription of anti­psychotics recommended that, from 2010-11, primary care trusts should commission specialist teams for care homes from older people’s mental health services.

Under the plan, they would regularly visit care homes to assess and review residents and provide emergency response services, reducing the need to use antipsychotics.

The review, whose 11 recommendations have been accepted by the government, estimated this would cost £68m a year and mental health teams would have to hire, on average, six more full-time staff.

The increased costs could be offset by savings in antipsychotic prescriptions and reductions in hospital admissions.

But care services minister Phil Hope said no funding would be available from government to implement the report’s proposals, leaving PCTs to find the initial investment from existing funds.

“I don’t think it’s likely this would be rolled out across the country next year because some places will struggle to afford it,” said David Stout, director of the NHS Confederation’s Primary Care Trust Network.

He said the onus was on the Department of Health to identify the proposal as a priority in the NHS operating framework for 2010-11, due next month.

The report suggested the new roles should be built into the current work of community mental health teams, which are run by mental health trusts.

Steve Shrubb, director of the NHS Confederation’s Mental Health Network, which represents trusts, said “building on existing teams would reduce the cost” because they already had relevant expertise.

But he warned the report may have raised expectations that would be difficult to deliver.

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