NHS mental health services ‘are getting worse’ and only 42% of patients get enough appointments

NHS mental health services are getting worse, a damning report reveals, with less than half of patients feeling they are sufficiently cared for.

The findings come from a survey of more than 12,500 people receiving NHS treatment for a mental health condition in England.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC), who carried out the survey, said there results were largely negative. 

In the past five years, respondents have become increasingly unsatisfied with the time they are given with a professional and the advice they are given on how to cope.  

A leading charity warned they are picking up the pieces of the many thousands of patients who are being ‘neglected’.

Only 42 per cent of mental health patients say they receive enough care, a report revealed

Marjorie Wallace, chief executive of the mental health charity Sane, said: ‘Four years ago we were promised a revolution in mental healthcare by the then government, but according to the CQC, far from services improving, there has been a downward spiral leaving many thousands of people with mental health problems neglected and under-treated.’

Professor Wendy Burn, president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: ‘This survey shows NHS mental health services are struggling to cope with rising demand.

‘With the reduction in the number of psychiatric beds, there is even more pressure on community services where new investment has only just started to reach the frontline.

The nationwide survey polled people who received treatment for a mental health condition between September and November last year.

The study found a decline in people’s experience of accessing care, with only 42 per cent of respondents saying they ‘definitely’ saw NHS mental health services often enough for their needs.


The number of vacant NHS consultant psychiatric posts has doubled in six years, a census by the Royal College of Psychiatrists found.

One in 10 posts are vacant – 568 posts out of a total of 5,730 (9.9 per cent) – up from one in 20 in 2013 (5.2 per cent). 

Rates across the UK vary: in Scotland that figure is 9.7 per cent, in Northern Ireland 7.5 per cent and in Wales 12.7 cent. Across the UK that rate is 9.6 per cent.

Regional variations in psychiatric staffing levels means patients face a postcode lottery of care. 

Some 89 per cent of NHS mental health organisations and private providers in the UK responded to the census.

College president Professor Wendy Burn said: ‘These findings are very alarming. The government’s plans to improve mental health care are laudable, and we fully support them, but without the workforce to deliver them they will fail.

‘It needs to address urgently some of the burning issues around the NHS workforce, such as early retirement, the pensions crisis and unacceptable levels of work-related stress.’ 

This is one percentage point lower than the previous year’s result and five percentage points lower than in 2014.

Younger people aged 18 to 35 reported worse than average experiences while older people reported better than average. 

The poll also found almost one in three people (31 per cent) did not know who to contact in the NHS out of hours if they had a mental health crisis.

Of people who did know who to contact and had attempted to do, one in five people (20 per cent) said they did not receive the help they needed. 

There was also a drop when it came to time spent with staff, with 57 per cent of people saying they had enough time to discuss their needs and treatment.

This a drop of eight per cent point from a high of 65 per cent in 2014, and one per cent point lower than the previous year.

Meanwhile, only about half (52 per cent) of respondents said the person or team they saw were ‘completely’ aware of their treatment history.

Almost a quarter of people (23 per cent) were not involved in agreeing their treatment plan. Of those who did, half felt they were involved as much as they wanted to be in the process, down four percentage points since 2014.

Ms Wallace said: ‘Sane’s experience from the many callers to our helpline is that people who are suicidal or self-harming are being sent home from A&E, with overburdened community teams often taking days to make urgent home visits, leaving patients, their families and carers with nowhere to turn.

‘If the new government, following the new long-term plan, does not restore beds and staff for people in crisis, then the promised transformation in mental healthcare will fail.’

According to NHS England, one in four adults experience at least one mental health condition in any given year.

Professor Burn added: ‘Our recent workforce census found that one in 10 consultant psychiatrist places are unfilled.

‘This is why we are calling for the number of medical school places to be doubled and a much greater focus on staff retention.’

Psychiatric vacancies have doubled in six years, the RCOP says.   

There are huge regional variations in psychiatric staffing levels, confirming patients also face a postcode lottery of care.

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