Integrating mental health and social care

22 March 2018

Does it work in practice?

Dr Kim Woodbridge-Dodd
22 March 2018

In the second in our series We need to talk about social care, Kim Woodbridge-Dodd looks at the integration of mental health and social care, the benefits behind this and the challenges faced on the ground.

There are numerous benefits to creating more integrated mental health services, perhaps most notably that integrated services offer those who use them better access to health and social care, as well as reducing duplications in services and thus potentially lowering costs.

Despite the apparent benefits to integration, services and individuals still struggle to put this into practice for a host of reasons. In recent research, social workers commented that whilst they had a clear idea of the role of social work within mental health care, it could be difficult to employ these distinctive and valuable characteristics within the context of NHS mental health teams, with their prioritisation of targets and outcomes.

However, as this briefing highlights, narratives that construct the NHS system as on the brink of collapse, and social care as failing the NHS, can conceal the day-to-day challenges of living with mental health problems, the distress of families and friends, and the struggle to stay well in their community.

We urgently need to discuss the roles of social care, social models, social perspectives and professional social work in mental health services. And we need NHS guidelines and strategies which articulate the details of mental health social work and social perspectives in the delivery of mental health services. Only when we do this will we truly see a fair chance for people with mental health problems.

Dr Kim Woodbridge-Dodd is a registered mental health nurse, who is currently working as a lecturer on the Doctor of Professional Practice programme and a health researcher at the University of Northampton. She is also a partner member of The Collaborating Centre for Values-Based Practice in Health and Social Care. St. Catherine’s College, Oxford University.

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