Mental Health is now included in ‘NHS Patient Choice’

Mental Health is now included in ‘NHS Patient Choice’

By William Smith

The NHS Choice agenda has been extended to include community and mental health services.  This means that NHS patients who require treatment for mental health issues will now be able to choose the provided of their required service whether that is the NHS, independent sector or voluntary sector organisations.

Extending choice and availability for people who require psychological therapies enables access to treatment by a provider near to their work or home and by a therapist of their choosing.

A survey carried out in 2010 it was found that being able to choose a therapist is far more effective than just having one chosen for you.  The survey also found that having a choice of therapy resulted in users being three times more likely to be happy with their therapy than those who wanted a choice but did not get one.

 The Department of Health has just announced that NHS patients will have more freedom to choose where they go for healthcare from April 2012.  This was announced by Health Secretary Andrew Lansley.

Patients who are referred for selected services should be able to choose from a wide range of qualified providers.  These providers will have to meet NHS quality, prices and contracts.  This will enable patients to choose the provider best-placed to meet their individual needs and help to drive-up quality and services.

Previously choice has only been available to non-urgent hospital care, however, guidance now sets out that the choice offer will be extended to community and mental health services for the first time.

This decision was made after advice was taken from patient groups, voluntary organisations and clinicians.  There are eight services that have been recommended as the most suitable:

  • Services for back and neck pain
  • Adult hearing services in the community
  • Continence services (adults and children)
  • Diagnostic tests closer to home
  • Wheelchair services (children)
  • Podiatry (feet) services
  • Leg ulcer and wound healing

Talking Therapies (Primary Care Psychological therapies, adults)

Every area across England will be expected to offer more choice in a minimum of three services by September 2012 – either from the recommended list or for another community or mental health service that is a high local priority. The number of services will be expanded further from April 2013.

Andrew Lansley said:

“This is a big day for patients – real choice over how and where they are treated is becoming a reality. There is often confusion about these policies – a mistaken idea that competition is there for the sake of it, or to increase the independent sector’s role in the NHS.

“But let’s look at what this is really about: it’s about children getting wheelchairs more quickly. It’s about people with mental health conditions choosing to receive their care somewhere closer to home. It’s about older people being able to choose a service that will come to their home – perhaps the vital difference between staying at home or having to move into care. It’s about real choices for people over their care, leading to better results.

Providers will be paid a fixed price determined by a national or local tariff – competition will be on quality, not price

A national qualification process will be established to ensure that providers meet NHS quality standards, to minimise bureaucracy and reduce transaction costs

A national directory of qualified providers will be created to inform commissioners and patients

Any providers wanting to offer services to patients will be subject to a qualification process. They will need to be registered with the Care Quality Commission where appropriate and licensed by Monitor (after 2013) and will need to accept NHS prices. It will never be appropriate for some services, for example emergency ambulance admissions or A&E.

All of this is welcome news for people needing treatment of mental health disorders.  It could make a huge improvement in their recovery.  It would also be helpful if this new choice can help to cut down on the long waiting times to receive treatment for mental health issues. 

Mental Healthy is contacted all too often by service users who are worried over the protracted time it can take to receive treatment especially for talking therapy. 

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