Healthwatch England finds that mental health is the area of NHS the public most worry about

The Healthwatch England annual survey hasfound that mental health is thearea of NHS and social care that the public in England is most concerned about.

Access to and thequality of mental health services has been raised as a priority by more thanhalf of local Healthwatch, making it the number one issue for 2016. 

Collectivelylocal Healthwatch highlight a range of concerns, citing reports from the publicabout lengthy waiting times for treatment referral, GPs ‘not understanding’their mental health needs and a lack of community and crisis care.

HealthwatchEngland’s early research identified a strong desire from the public to workwith health professionals to design services that deliver more responsive andflexible low level mental health support. This will give people more of whatthey need to stay well and ease pressure on hard pressed GPs.

Suggestions putforward by the public included: 

  • Enabling people to ‘self-refer’ rather than having to go through a GP to access mental health support.
  • Offering in-house counselling services through GP surgeries so that there is greater collaboration to promote physical and mental wellbeing.
  • Working with family doctors to ensure staff are better trained to recognise mental health problems early and help people reach support.
  • Greater focus in schools to educate young people about mental health and the support out there to help avoid problems developing.
  • Better use of peer support arrangements – to call on the experiences of past patients to help others dealing with similar mental health challenges.

Local Healthwatchhave already identified a number of areas where new approaches to mental healthare being trialled but we want to see much greater focus in 2016 ofcommissioners working with the public to develop new and more efficient ways ofdelivering services designed around people’s wants and needs.

HealthwatchEngland’s Chief Executive Katherine Rake said: “Asattitudes to mental health change and some of the stigma begins to fade away,health bosses need to use this opportunity to refocus services around helpingpeople to identify and manage conditions earlier.

“When we speak to people they say it is all about improving theflexibility to access more low level support when and for as long as they need,not sticking to a one-size-fits-all approach of pre-set care packages.

“Yet still too often we hear fromthose accessing mental health support and their families that they feel theclock is ticking, and that if they are not ‘better’ by the end of their courseof counselling they will be left to cope on their own.

“This is just one of many areas where the Healthwatch network isproviding insight into how people want services to change to make best use ofresources and meet their needs.

“We are pleased the NHS and care services are listening, but we want tosee every health professional make it their personal New Year’s resolution for2016 to work with patients as partners in designing the future of services inEngland.”  

Keep in 2016 for news of mental health developments on thisside of the border…