The role of the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman is to handle complaints that have not been satisfactorily resolved by the NHS itself. On 19th March 2018 it issued a report giving illustrative examples with lessons for how mental health services could do better: It is our role to ensure NHS organisations learn from these mistakes and take the necessary steps to prevent those mistakes from happening again. That a problem exists is suggested by the fact that: In 2016-17 there were 14,106 complaints made to NHS mental health trusts, with around 65% being upheld or partly upheld by the local organisation.
How many times in the past have we heard this kind of tut-tutting? How many new five year plans, reorganisations, revisions to legislation, and other ‘worthy’ initiatives have there been since a new Mental Health Act was introduced in 1959? Are the concerns serious or is it just a pretence? As stated: According to The King’s Fund, 40% of mental health trusts in England received a real terms decrease in their operating income in 2015-16. More recently, The King’s Fund found that, despite 85% of mental health trusts receiving increases to their income in 2016-17, funding for acute and specialist physical healthcare continued to grow more quickly, increasing the gap in funding between physical and mental health services. Furthermore, there has been a 13% reduction in mental health nurses between 2009 and 2017, with inpatient care losing nearly 25%. Almost 10% of all posts in specialist mental health services in England are vacant.
Who should we charge with doing better?
Maintaining momentum: driving improvements in mental health care. Parliamentary and health service ombudsman. 19 March 2018, HC906. www.ombudsman.org.uk/mental-health