Briefing 52: Adult and older adult mental health services 2012-2016

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An analysis of Mental Health NHS Benchmarking Network data for England and Wales

Andy Bell, Amy Hardie, Zoe Morris, Dr Parashar Ramanuj and Stephen Watkins
28 September 2017

What does the data show about the current state of secondary NHS mental health care?

The NHS Benchmarking Network have made their mental health data available to the Centre to provide an independent commentary on what the data suggests about mental health provision in England and Wales between 2012 and 2016. This briefing is the result of our analysis, and highlights some key findings:

  • Acute inpatient services had 15% fewer beds in 2016 than they did in 2012, but only 4% fewer people were admitted to hospital.
  • Community mental health services also reduced slightly during that time (by about 6%).
  • Types of community service have also changed: early intervention and crisis resolution teams initially fell, for example, but then grew again in response to national policy focus in these two areas.
  • A growing proportion of people admitted to hospital were detained under the Mental Health Act.
  • At the same time there was significant investment in talking therapy services through the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies programme. And in many areas primary mental health care teams are emerging to offer an alternative to community care for some people.
  • The biggest reduction in community mental health services between 2013 and 2016 was in assertive outreach, while the biggest rise was in assessment and brief intervention teams.
  • In 2016, a new strategy, the Five Year Forward View for Mental Health brought with it a pledge of extra investment in both IAPT and community mental health services. This will be vital to build robust support for the full range of people’s mental health needs across the country.

The data points to an urgent need to review the capacity of community mental health services to meet people’s needs. While a fall in acute inpatient bed numbers represents a continuation of a long-term trend, it is a matter of great concern that admissions have not fallen to anything like the same degree. In contrast, nursing staff numbers have fallen by 20% in just four years. But it is the combination of reductions in inpatient care capacity and a fall in community care provision that is the greatest cause for concern from the data we have reviewed.

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