Since 2018, relationships between strategic care partners – the NHS, local councils, the voluntary, community and social enterprise sectors – have grown, leading in many cases to better and more convenient health services for people in the UK.
Such was the perceived success of this system, one goal of the NHS Long Term Plan was to ensure all areas of the UK were served by an Integrated Care System (ICS) by April 2021.
Here at Bridge, we acknowledge that the initiative for integrated care systems is a step in the right direction, but where do community mental health services fit in?
Integrated care systems could be an opportunity to grow community mental health services so fewer people end up unnecessarily in hospital or prison, but they’re falling short. Here’s why.
What are integrated health systems?
According to the NHS website, “Integrated care is about giving people the care they need, joined up across local councils, the NHS, and other partners.”
The idea is that by removing barriers between hospital and family doctors, physical and mental health, and different partners, care services will be less disjointed, easier to coordinate and inequalities of care between different groups will be reduced.
What are the benefits of integrated care systems?
Joining up care services makes complete sense. Being able to take advantage of different perspectives and expertise, and reducing needless red tape and boundaries is a step towards a more effective service for our clients.
We also welcome the fact that integrated care systems promote local decision making. This means partners can create services to meet the needs of their specific communities.
Why integrated care systems don’t go far enough
The problem with the integrated care system is the “work together” plan has been formulated without properly engaging community services as a vital link in the chain.
By missing this vital piece, many people miss out on the opportunity to get the support they need to recover from mental health problems.
When it comes to mental health services in the UK, too many people end up in prison or in hospital unnecessarily, or they stay there longer than they need to. For many, the care they receive in these facilities does not support their recovery plus the expense of maintaining people as in-patients puts an extra burden on the taxpayer.
There is another option. At Bridge we facilitate a range of community mental health services to meet the various and complex needs of our clients.
Research, and our experience providing community mental health services for the last 20 years, have shown community care works. We can teach people the skills required to live confidently in the community with support where it is needed. Our clients recover from their mental ill-health and become contributing members of society.
Getting the support they need in the community means our clients are far less likely to reach the crisis point that leads them back to hospital, and people with a forensic history are far less likely to end up back in prison.
How could we use integrated care systems to grow effective community mental health services?
Integrated care systems are a step in the right direction. We welcome professionals from different organisations joining together to support people with mental health problems work towards recovery. But by not properly involving community services in the planning of the integrated care systems, it’s a missed opportunity for our potential clients, our communities, and the taxpayer.
Involve Us, Talk to Us, Work With Us
We know that the answer to mental health problems lies mainly in the community and not always in hospitals.