Doctors says delays in mental health care services are causing patients harm

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ONE in five family doctors said they had seen patients “come to harm” because they were unable to get proper support from mental health services, a survey has suggested.

Some 18 per cent of GPs said they had patients who were harmed because of delays or a lack of support from community mental health or crisis teams, according to a new questionnaire by magazine Pulse.

A number of patients have committed suicide or been sectioned as a result, the magazine reported. Pulse’s poll of 500 family doctors also found that eight in 10 believed their local community mental health service could not cope with its case load.

Meanwhile, 43 per cent said services in their area had become worse over the past year.

Commenting on the poll, Dr Maureen Baker, chairwoman of the Royal College of GPs, said: “General practice and community mental health services are under severe strain as we struggle to cope with rising demand and diminishing resources.

“As a result, we are facing greater challenges than ever before in getting patients with mental health issues the right care when and where they need it. There is an urgent need to reassess the way funding is allocated so that services in the community have adequate resources to deliver more proactive, planned care to patients with mental illness.

“We are working with our colleagues at the Royal College of Psychiatrists to call for a rebalancing of NHS resources so that people with mental health problems get the care that they need and deserve.”

Dr Martin McShane, NHS England’s director for people with long-term conditions, told Pulse: “We must make sure patients get the right care as close to home as possible.

“While these decisions are made locally, we are supporting clinical commissioning groups to deliver high-quality care and parity of esteem for mental health services – both of which are a priority for NHS England.”