Mind have published a number of resources aimed at improving mental health crisis care, which they say is ‘under-resourced, understaffed and overstreched’.
The charity have used Freedom of Information requests to obtain data from mental health trusts, have conducted a survey of nearly 1,000 patients and are also involved in a research project with colleges from University College London.
This work highlights the following areas of concern:
- Services are understaffed: Four in ten mental health trusts (41%) have staffing levels well below established benchmarks.
- People are not getting the help they need: There is huge variation in the numbers of people accessing crisis care services and one in five people (18%) who came into contact with NHS services in crisis was not assessed at all. Only 14% of people said that, overall, they felt they had all the support they needed when in crisis.
- People aren’t assessed quickly enough: Only a third (33%) of respondents who came into contact with NHS services when in crisis were assessed within four hours, as recommended by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE).
- Services are not available all the time: One in ten (10%) crisis teams still fails to operate 24-hour, seven-day-a-week services, despite recommendations by NICE.
- People cannot contact crisis teams directly: Only half (56%) of crisis teams accept self-referrals from known services users and just one in five (21%) from service users that aren’t already known to them. This is despite NICE guidance that crisis teams should offer self-referral as an alternative to emergency services.
- There is a lack of respect and dignity: Less than a third (29%) said they felt all staff treated them with respect and dignity.
Mind have published a briefing aimed specifically at Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), in the hope that the new commissioners of mental health services can take these messages on board and act to improve the provision of crisis care services in future.
The report says that it is more important than ever that CCGs commission acute and crisis care that:
- Is humane, compassionate and respectful
- Is easily accessible for people in crisis
- Has enough skilled staff to provide a timely, effective and sensitive response
- Offers a level and mix of services that meet the crisis needs of all the communities in the local population
- Works to prevent mental health problems developing or worsening and to promote recovery in collaboration with the wider system of mental health care services
Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind, said:
The NHS Mandate, released earlier this month, sends a strong message that mental health is a priority and should be put on a par with physical health in the NHS. As the structure of the NHS changes and commissioning power transfers to Clinical Commissioning Groups, there is a real opportunity to assess local crisis care services and make sure a range of good quality services are put in place. We want CCGs to use the data we are releasing today to inform how they can commission a service that addresses the needs of people in crisis.
You can follow the Crisis Care campaign discussion on Twitter at #crisiscare.
What’s crisis care like in your area? (postcode search) Mind, November 2012.
Crisis care in numbers (FOI data and UCL preliminary findings). Mind, November 2012.