Government mental health paper

A government report has been published on the topic of Improving access to mental health services and it makes for sobering reading. If you think this isn’t something that effects you, maybe these figures will make it clearer “One in four adults is diagnosed with a mental illness at some point in their lives, but only around a quarter of people estimated to need mental health services have access to them.”

The conclusions in the report are summarised as follows:

1.Achieving parity of esteem between mental and physical health is a laudable ambition but pressure on the NHS budget will make it very difficult to achieve.

2.Structures are not in place to enable joined-up working across government to ensure the most appropriate action is taken to support people’s mental well-being.

Around half of people with lifetime mental health problems experience symptoms by the age of 14 and schools play an important part in identifying mental health issues among young people, but counselling services are not available in all schools. 

 3.It is difficult for people to access the support they need because the way mental health services are designed and configured is complex, variable and difficult to navigate. 

The National Audit Office found, for example, that in 2014–15, the proportion of people able to access psychological therapy within six weeks of referral varied from 7% in one clinical commissioning group to 99% in another.

4.There is insufficient information about the numbers of mental health staff and their skills, and there is not yet a clear plan to develop the workforce needed to achieve parity of esteem. 

Current structures, practices and payment mechanisms do not incentivise commissioners and providers to deliver high-quality mental health services for all who need them. 

One of the points that I found particularly sad was this section on children and young peoples experiences accessing mental health services. In my work as a school counsellor I have witnessed first hand how long it can take to get a young person into specialist treatment and it can be a very distressing experience.

32.The Centre for Mental Health told us that it had recently completed a review of children and young people’s mental health. This work had found that it typically takes 10 years between the first symptoms of a mental health condition appearing and a young person having access to effective, evidence-based support. Delays were partly explained by low mental health literacy among parents, who found it difficult to know the difference between a mental health difficulty and ordinary childhood experiences, but also because of difficulty accessing services. Even when people made contact with services this could be a remote, formal and frightening experience.Written evidence from Bringing Us Together reinforced concerns about children and young people’s experiences of poor mental health care.

The link to the full report is