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Access to mental health services worsening, according to survey findings

Results from the recently published Community Mental Health Survey highlight that issues with access to services and support, as evidenced in the 2020 and 2021 surveys, continue to persist. 

The 2022 Community Mental Health Survey – coordinated by Picker for the Care Quality Commission – collected feedback from more than 13,400 people in contact with services between September and November 2021. The survey is an important source of information to help us understand the quality of person-centred care provided to mental health service users.

A key feature of a high-quality person centred mental health service is timely access to care. The survey shows that there is more to be done here to ensure that service users have a good experience as nearly a third (31%) reported not being told who was in charge of organising their care and services – up from 28% in 2021. In parallel with this, 30% of service users said that they had not seen NHS mental health services enough in the last 12 months (compared to 27% in 2021 and 24% in 2020) and only 55% said they were given enough time to discuss their needs and treatment.

Just over half of service users (51%) said that they did not receive any help or advice with finding support for financial advice or benefits – a 3% point increase from last year’s survey. When asked a similar question regarding support for finding or keeping work, 50% said they did not receive help or advice but would have liked it. With the financial worries that the increased cost of living is causing for many people, signposting support and advice for employment, managing money, and claiming benefits are vital for helping people maintain good mental health.

Commenting on the results, Jenny King, Picker’s Chief Research Officer, said:

“On the 22nd September 2022, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care and Deputy Prime Minister at the time, Thérèse Coffey, announced the UK government’s Our plan for patients. Whilst it notes that work will continue to improve the availability of mental health support through expansion of services, there was little detail on how this would be achieved and how backlogs of care in mental health services would be resolved.

With the backdrop of the cost of living crisis and its impact on people’s mental health, the findings from this survey highlight the urgent need for more to be done to address accessibility issues. And not just in mental health services but across health and social care where, as highlighted by CQC’s 2021/22 State of Care report, people are waiting too long for appointments, assessments, and treatment. Without a plan for tackling the NHS’s workforce crisis, the ability to make sustainable service improvements to address the unmet need is severely restricted.”

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Source: Picker, 27 October 2022


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