Fight for mental health funding
Clare Wilkins, Birmingham South East Socialist Party
Nearly half of England’s mental health units are out of date or unsafe according to healthcare regulator CQC. Thousands were “inadequate” or marked “requires improvement.”
This is against the background of more people than ever requiring care, and of poor access to mental health services in general. The report covers both NHS and private facilities.
Two in five services inspected since 2014 failed safety standards. Patients are being treated on out-of-date wards which don’t have enough staff.
Thousands of service users are still locked up in asylum-type units. It is over 50 years since such arrangements were deemed unsuitable.
There are still 3,500 beds in 248 locked wards in England. Around two thirds are managed by private or third-sector providers. The average stay on high-dependency wards is 341 days – but some stay nearly five years.
Some wards are still mixed-gender. It is decades since this should have stopped.
Most provision was found to be “outstanding” in terms of staff providing care, but falling woefully short on safety.
Last year, Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust recorded over 1,000 violent incidents against staff and 480 against other service users, and removed 148 potential weapons from service users.
The only treatment ward in Solihull was closed because it was a mixed-gender ‘stand-alone’ ward, and safety of staff and service users could not be ensured.
Since 2010, the number of mental health nurses working has fallen by 5,000 according to nurses’ union RCN.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has promised an extra £1.3 billion to recruit 21,000 more mental health workers. But this is not new funding – it was first promised by David Cameron in 2016.
Too many patients are sent miles away for treatment because of a lack of local beds. Many others do not get access to treatment at all.
The consequences of austerity have led to a rise in the number of people with mental illnesses.
But mental health provision is the poor relation of physical care in the NHS, and the whole service is impoverished and in crisis. This is part of a deliberate strategy to run it down to make it ready to privatise.
Virgin already has £1 billion of NHS contracts. The Socialist Party fights to reverse all NHS cuts and sell-offs.
Scrap the obsolete, prison-like locked wards and fund enough safe facilities and specialist staff to provide mental healthcare for all.
Capitalism is literally making us sick. We need a socialist world.