National CQC survey highlights a decline in people’s experiences of community health services

People’s experiences of the care they receive from community-based mental health services have continued to decline, according to an annual survey from the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

The survey published last week, highlights deep concerns around access to care, care planning and support for people with mental health conditions in relation to physical health needs, financial advice or benefits.

It was revealed that although 71% of participants felt they were ‘always’ treated with respect and dignity by the NHS mental health services, less than 30% rated their overall experience of community mental healthcare as nine out of 10 or above – which is down from 34% in 2017.

The results showed that:

  • One in four (25%) of respondents said they had not seen workers from NHS mental health services enough for their needs in the past year.
  • 30% of respondents said they had ‘definitely’ received help or advice from NHS mental health services to find support for physical health needs, down from 35% in 2017.
  • People’s experiences of how their care is planned has declined with 53% ‘definitely’ feeling involved in the process of agreeing their care – down from 56% in 2017.
  • Although 71% of respondents knew who to contact out of hours when having a crisis, 18% of respondents who tried to make contact when experiencing a crisis said they did not get the help they needed. An additional 3% were unable to make contact at all.
  • 96% of respondents knew how to contact the person in charge of organising their care if they had a concern. Nine out of 10 respondents felt this person organised their care and services either ‘very well’ or ‘quite well’. However, 27% of respondents said they had not been told who was in charge of their care.

Dr Paul Lelliott, deputy chief inspector of Hospitals and lead for mental health at the CQC, said: “Community mental health services provide vital care and treatment to people with mental health conditions. They should be there to provide both the ongoing support that people with long-term problems need to enable them to live a fulfilling life and prompt help at times of crisis, ensuring that their mental health does not deteriorate to the point that they require inpatient care.

“Worryingly this survey has found that people are reporting a worsening experience of care and that the longer that people have been in contact with services, the less positive they are about the care they are receiving.

“It shows a deterioration in experiences around access to care, planning of care and support for people in relation to financial advice or benefits and physical health needs. These are the bread and butter functions that these services should be providing for people with enduring mental health problems to support them on the road to recovery.

“It’s clear that so far the work to implement the Five Year Forward View for mental health has not brought about the necessary improvement – the NHS long term plan must provide sustainable investment in these crucial services. It is vital that community mental health teams, which are the bedrock of any mental health service, are supported to provide holistic care to those with mental health conditions, so that everyone receives the care they need, whether they are being treated for the first time or are a long-term user of services.”

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