BMA report highlights ‘broken’ mental healthcare system

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The extent of the ‘broken’ mental healthcare system in England has been revealed in a new report from the British Medical Association (BMA) which is based on the accounts of frontline doctors.

It carried out in-depth interviews with doctors across the mental health system, including those working in psychiatry, general practice, emergency medicine, and public health.

The report “It’s broken”: Doctors’ experiences on the frontline of a failing mental healthcare system said that the future looks bleak unless there is a concerted effort from central government to resource mental healthcare based on demand as well as changes in society to promote good mental health.

The current economic cost of mental ill health has been estimated to be over £100 billion in England alone, but this report demonstrates that across the NHS, doctors are in an ongoing struggle to give patients the care they need because the funding is just not enough, there are not enough staff, and the infrastructure and systems are not fit for purpose.

Mental healthcare demand has changed dramatically

​Dr Andrew Molodynski, a consultant psychiatrist in Oxfordshire and the mental health lead at the British Medical Association, said: “As doctors struggling to provide mental health care, we know only too well that the system has crumbled. Some of our patients wait as long as four years for treatment, meaning too many people – including children – continue to fall through the gaps, and all the while funding remains insufficient. We’re having to make hard prioritisation choices that leave many patients without care and support that they urgently need.​

​”The demand for mental health services has changed dramatically, but funding has not kept pace. Mental healthcare funding must be based on what people need today, instead of being based on what we spent yesterday, which was inadequate even then. We need these changes to the system to be able provide good quality care and tackle the huge cost of mental health to people’s lives, the NHS, and the economy.”

​The report finds that although in recent years the Government has placed some focus on mental healthcare, sadly there has been no overall improvement in services. It also finds that services are facing ever increasing demands and doctors are becoming increasingly distressed and frustrated as they are less and less able to provide the best care for their patients.

​The report concludes that mental healthcare has not been provided with the funding or staff necessary to achieve the level of improvement needed for patients and the doctors who work within it. It also makes plain that trying to pinpoint just how much extra funding and staff are required is difficult due to a lack of consistent data on the prevalence of mental illness in England.

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