Wednesday 14 November 2012

Shameful Injustice

An independent inquiry commissioned by our friends Rethink Mental Illness into the state of care for people with schizophrenia and psychosis in England is calling for a widespread overhaul of the system. See our story plus links to the report here.

It says too much is being spent on the most expensive form of care, secure care, and more should be invested in prevention and community support.

The Schizophrenia Commission says care of people with schizophrenia and psychosis in England is falling "catastrophically short". It says improvements in the understanding and treatment of the condition mean it should no longer be considered a "diagnosis of despair".

Their report, "An Abandoned Illness", describes "shameful" standards of care on some acute mental health wards, which can "make patients worse rather than better". It calls for every ward in England to be brought to a standard where people would recommend them to a friend or relative: spot on - that is exactly the standard which Hafal invites people to apply in assessing services.

The report also highlights the disparity between the money spent on people with physical illness and those with mental illness; only 13% of the English NHS budget goes towards treating mental ill health, even though 23% of conditions dealt with by the NHS are mental rather than physical. It also expresses concerns that highly effective early intervention treatment teams are being cut in some areas; these are estimated to save the NHS £16,000 per person over the first three years of their illness.

My opposite number Paul Jenkins, CEO of Rethink Mental Illness, who sat on the Commission (though he found time too to join us climbing Snowdon in September!), tells us: "It's been over 100 years since the term "schizophrenia" was first coined, but care and treatment are still nowhere near good enough. It is a scandal that in 2012 people with schizophrenia are dying 15-20 years earlier than the general population and that only 7% are able to get a job. Too many people are falling through the gaps in the system and ending up in prison or homeless."

Sadly there's no reason to suppose that the experiences of people with schizophrenia and psychosis in Wales are any better than the experiences of those in England. Indeed in some respects the redevelopment of the in-patient estate in Wales lags behind England. This excellent report is a reality check.

We now have good legislation in Wales and a new mental health Strategy but the truth is that there remains a huge amount of work to do to put right the shameful injustice of how people with a serious mental illness have been treated. Above all this report tells us that the priority is to devote additional resources and effort into providing a decent service to people with the very highest needs.