Mental health patients to be given new rights
Patients to be allowed to choose consultants, a move that will give them parity with those with physical health problems
Denis Campbell The Guardian
Thursday 13 December 2012
Patients with mental health problems are to be given new rights over which consultant psychiatrist they see under new plans to end institutional bias against them in the NHS.
The move, to be announced on Thursday by the Department of Health, will allow people with conditions such as depression to choose which specialist they go to for treatment from 2014.
Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister, who has been instrumental in securing the change, said that giving patients with mental health conditions more choice and control over their treatment would increase the chances of their making a good recovery and help to give them parity with those with physical health problems.
“It does not make any sense that some of the most vulnerable members of our society have little control about how their condition is treated. If any group of patients could benefit from being empowered by taking control of their own care, it is people with mental illness”, Clegg said.
“My overriding priority is to ensure that mental health is finally considered in all aspects of NHS care, so that it no longer suffers from the institutional bias that has existed for so long”, he added.
The change “will strike a clear symbolic blow” in ministers’ efforts to ensure that patients with mental health problems get the same rights and access to NHS treatment as those with physical ailments, Whitehall sources said. It will help end what is too often a “like it or lump it health service” for mental health patients who currently cannot decide which psychiatrist they see.
The move will also address what Clegg and care services minister Norman Lamb see as a significant flaw in the last Labour government’s extension of patient rights, which in 2008 saw those with physical health conditions allowed to choose which hospital they visited for their first appointment with a consultant. From April 2014 any patient in England referred by their GP for treatment for a mental health problem such as anxiety will have the same choice.
The change is the latest initiative by Liberal Democrat ministers to ensure parity from the NHS for the one in four people suffer from mental ill-health at some point in their lifetime. Lamb recently announced plans to introduce “access standards” – waiting times, in effect – to ensure patients do not have to wait too long for mental health treatment, to match those that already exist for physical conditions.
It will also allow such patients referred by their GP to choose to go to a private provider of mental health treatment, not just an NHS hospital.
Paul Farmer, chief executive of the mental health charity Mind, welcomed the move. “This is a real step forward in making the government’s commitment to giving mental health parity of esteem with physical health a reality. Many people tell Mind that too often they feel they aren’t listened to or respected by their mental health professional, so allowing people to choose their consultant should improve quality of care.”
Choice over what treatment a patient receives and involvement in planning their care are critical to a patient’s recovery, Farmer added.
Credit: The Guardian Newspaper: