The disparity of funding and access to treatment between mental health and physical health has long been a challenge for the NHS. While stigma around mental illness continues to decline, access to care for people living with mental illness continues to be inconsistent. The news of additional funding by 2020, so that patients will be able to get community care 24 hours a day, seven days a week, signals a huge transformation in NHS mental health services in England.
There have been a series of news items over the past month to highlight the issues of local access, following an independent commission recommendation that mental health care be available nearer to home for everyone. This clearly could not happen without investment. So the Government’s announcement is welcome news for people living with mental illness, but it also speaks to a need to address wider public health needs. The so-called Invisible Diseases, such as IBD and Crohn’s and some rare diseases, are frequently associated with a perception that people living with those diseases are ‘overstating their illness’ as symptoms are often unseen. These diseases also have well-established links to depression and anxiety, commonly driven by feelings of isolation, a low quality of life and even a perception of being a burden on their families and society.
The new funding and change in approach is a step towards resolving this. It’s in no way an easy task, but by delivering joined-up service, it may allow faster assessment and treatment of people living with mental illness.