‘Scandalous’ report on mental health treatment
By William Smith
The findings of a report on mental health has been published by the London School of Economics and they make for very disturbing reading. It describes the scale of the NHS’s neglect of mental illness as ‘scandalous’ and suggests that only a quarter of those needing treatment are receiving it.
A team of experts which included economists, doctors, NHS managers and psychologists conducted the report which states that nearly half of all the illnesses suffered by people of working age stems from a psychological root. These illnesses are profoundly disabling for the individuals who have them and for the economy. The report suggests that millions of pounds are being wasted by not treating the real cause of many health problems.
The Mental Health Policy Group, which was headed by Lord Layard states that talking therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) addresses the symptoms of both anxiety and depression in 40% of those who receive treatment. Government funding has been allocated to train more therapists and yet the availability of such therapists is patchy as some NHS commissioners are not spending this money for the purpose that it was intended. In some areas the services for children are actually being cut.
The report states ‘It is a real scandal that we have 6 million people with depression or crippling anxiety conditions and 700,000 children with problem behaviours, anxiety or depression. Yet three quarters of each group get no treatment.’
Lord Layard says ‘Mental health is so central to the health of individuals and of society that it needs its own cabinet minister…… The under-treatment of people suffering from mental illnesses is the most glaring case of health inequality in the NHS….. Despite the existence of cost-effective treatments it receives only 13% of NHS expenditure. If local NHS commissioners want to improve their budgets, they should all be expanding their provision of psychological therapy.’
The report also states that a third of all families have a member who is suffering from mental illness. It further finds that mental health problems are the cause of nearly half of all work absences with a similar number of people on incapacity benefits.
Five years ago in 2008, Lord Layard and others argued that treating anxiety and depression saved the NHS a considerable amount of money and as a result ‘Improving Access to Psychological Therapy’ was set up to train thousands of extra therapists. Despite this, official figures demonstrate that too few people are receiving treatment. In 2011 there were 6.1 million people suffering from treatable anxiety or depression in England alone. Only 2.1%, 131,000 people, received talking therapy treatment.
As long as mental health remains the ‘poor relation’ in comparison physical health in terms of NHS treatment we are set to see the economy continue to decline. In terms of life enjoyment for mental health patients, until this imbalance is corrected their quality of life is on hold. Surely it is time that the Government realised the personal and economical costs of not providing adequate treatment for mental illness.