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King’s Fund blast ‘dearth’ of mental health support in the community


By Isabel Shaw
15 October 2019

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Those with learning disabilities and autism are being ‘unnecessarily warehoused’ out of sight due to a lack of mental health services in the community, according to a think tank.

The Care Quality Commission’s (CQC’s) State of Care Report 2018/19 revealed that staffing issues and a continued lack of parity between physical and mental health has meant that community mental health services are under considerable strain.

Responding to the report, The King’s Fund claimed that more care must be delivered in community settings to tackle this inequality.

Sally Warren, director of policy at The King’s Fund, said: ‘Long-held ambitions to put mental health on a par with physical health can only be delivered if sufficient numbers of suitably qualified and skilled staff are available.

‘Alarming decline’

Ms Warren continued: ‘The alarming decline in the quality of specialist inpatient services is a particular concern as these services care for some of society’s most vulnerable people. Too many people with a learning disability or autism are still being unnecessarily warehoused in out-of-sight facilities due to a dearth of community-based support. This must stop, with more services delivered safely in community settings.’

The report found that 10% of inpatient services for people with learning disabilities or autism were rated as inadequate, compared to just 1% in 2019.

It also noted that when patients struggle to access primary care services, citing very long appointment waiting times, this has a direct effect on escalating the pressure put on secondary care.

Ian Trenholm, chief executive of the CQC, said: ‘Having the right staff to deliver good care is crucial to turning the tide – as are better integrated community services to prevent people ending up in the wrong place. We’ve seen some excellent care where services collaborate and we want to see more local services working together.

‘While we’ll continue to call out staffing issues at provider level when these have an impact on care, we’re also calling for system-wide action on workforce planning which encourages more flexible and collaborative approaches to staff skills and career paths. The ambitious plans to expand the mental health workforce to meet an increase in demand must be accelerated.’

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