Is the current state of crisis in the NHS a mirror of mental health services?

Ask anyone in Britain right now about the state of the NHS at the minute and they’ll tell you this: “it’s in crisis”. This fact is everywhere at the minute, and rightly so. The media reports and statistics are very much focused on physical health, a&e waiting times and the unavailability of GP appointments. Hospitals are declaring major incidents left right and centre as they struggle to cope with the demands on such underfunded services.

This is causing outrage – how can the NHS be struggling so much at the minute? It strikes me that this is a mirror image of what mental health services look like in many places, and have done for quite some time now. In 2013, whilst waiting for an inpatient (CAMHS) bed, I was told there were none in the country. None. I was later told that the closest bed was in Birmingham – I live in London. Thankfully a bed became available in London for me. I don’t recall the media having a field day over the fact that there were no beds in the entire country for young people. I was lucky, but some young people find themselves on adult wards, stuck in general hospital for prolonged periods of time, or even in police cells following a s135/136 where no alternative places of safety were accessible. Rarely do these instances make the headlines and even if they do, by no means do they dominate them with the same ferocity as we have seen recently.

Budgets in mental health services are consistently low. CAMHS only receives 6% of the total MH spending, of which £50m has been cut recently. How on earth are services meant to provide a well-rounded service with such little funding? Mental health problems present in adulthood are quite often prevalent in childhood/adolescence, so why does CAMHS get such a raw deal? Increased funding a resources put into CAMHS could change the face of AMHS – early intervention in youth could save lives and prevent problems from escalating. As I write this I am aware that this is well known, so I won’t waffle!

The reality is this: mental health services are in crisis. What seems to be an often overlooked crisis. Staff work incredibly hard and everyone I have come into contact with has been 100% dedicated to helping people. Despite being understaffed and over worked (as was so often apparent when I was an inpatient). Sometimes there’d only be one nurse on shift, co ordinating, bed managing, having to somehow look after the 11 people in their care, call the ETL to dispense meds whilst trying to find other young people a bed up and down the country. Not my idea of a relaxing Saturday morning! But despite that, everyone strives to do the best for those they are looking after. A nurse once said to me “if I could have you all on 1:1 to give you the nursing you all need, I would. But I can’t. ”

I digress. Just a small piece in recognition of all those who work in the NHS.

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