Community care is failing patients with mental illnesses, a report from a leading independent think tank says.
More than 30 years ago a decision was made to close big mental hospitals and treat patients in the community, but despite £6 billion a year being spent on treating mental illness, services are failing to meet needs and change lives, the Centre for Social Justice says.
Its report Completing the revolution – Transforming mental health and tackling poverty says that the knock-on cost to the country is £105 billon through higher general health and social care costs, lost working days and family breakdown and that this is completely unsustainable in today’s economic climate.
The report says treatment fails to reduce mental illness in more than two-thirds of cases, suggesting patients need much more than medication and therapy to get better and rebuild their lives.
It adds that many patients are being neglected and denied access to treatment because the closure of the old asylums was not accompanied by a parallel expansion of primary mental health services provided by GPs, psychiatrists and nurses.
The Centre for Social Justice says the poorest in society are those most likely to suffer mental ill-health because the drivers and effects of poverty are also the drivers of mental ill-health which, in turn, leads to greater disadvantage. It emphasises that mental health services have to play their part in tackling the five pathways to poverty (family breakdown, educational failure, drink and drug addiction, worklessness and welfare dependency, and serious personal debt).
The Centre for Social Justice says that the move to clinical commissioning groups, dominated by GPs, should be used to enable charities and other independent organisations to compete fairly with state-run services for contracts to care for the mentally ill.
"Communities themselves need to become neighbourly and places where social isolation is the exception to the norm," the report adds.
The report concludes that Britain is hampered by an "unfinished revolution in mental health care" and that further reforms are urgently needed to achieve the goals set by the policy-makers of the 1970s and 1980s who championed the cause of care in the community.
"Realising the full potential of this shift required a far-reaching cultural change that has stalled and many needs currently go unmet.
"Money is still tied up in hospital care because the services people need are not available in the community," it says.