The National Health Service or NHS is the public health care system in the United Kingdom. Through the NHS, people are able to receive treatment for all different types of disorders and conditions, including mental health conditions.
The ways in which the NHS supports mental health care are many. The NHS has been at the forefront of mental health treatment in the United Kingdom, connecting patients with providers and significantly benefiting the mental health of the community as a whole.
Dr. Akmal Makhdum shares how the National Health Service treats mental health care, beginning with an exploration of the structure of the organization.
Structure of the NHS
The NHS is a nationwide organization that employs a large majority of health care providers in the U.K. While not all providers are part of the NHS, most people will receive their care in a public fashion.
The structure of the NHS began with three major branches of the system. These branches were hospital services, primary care, and community services including maternity, vaccination, child welfare, and ambulance services. In the past, mental health services were split between the hospital services and primary care divisions.
In the 1980s, greater attention was given to the fact that children and families in poorer areas still had higher infant mortality and lowered life expectancies. This knowledge led to the restructuring of the NHS. Regional health authorities were instituted. The regional health authorities were given the power to negotiate for hospital services, meaning that there was competition in the market to provide the best treatment.
The structure of the NHS changed again in 2012. The NHS was split into four different organizations, including the Department of Health, NHS England, Clinical Commissioning Groups, and NHS Foundation Trusts. Each of these organizations has its own responsibilities to provide better health care to the British people.
Each country in Great Britain now has its own NHS system, rather than having the system centralized. This has helped each country run its own health care system according to local needs.
Mental Health Care in the NHS
While mental health care is free under the NHS system, it often requires a referral from a primary health care provider. While there has been an increased number of clinicians in the system, waiting times remain extremely long. This can lead to disastrous consequences for the individual patient, some of whom have to wait for up to a year before they are seen by an NHS clinician. Reforms are underway which will help mental health patients receive treatment quicker and more efficiently.
The backbone of the NHS mental health care system is the individual provider. Psychologists, psychiatrists, and nurses work together to bring the best possible care given the limited budget and an increasing number of patients. The importance of therapy in concert with medication is stressed, and mental health care patients can receive as many as one visit per week.
Funding Increases and More Patients Helped
Over the past several years, mental health care is up £1.4 billion. 120,000 more residents are receiving specialist treatment. With a better understanding of dementia treatment, patients are being seen earlier, leading to better outcomes.
The NHS has instituted a national waiting time standard for mental health services. This change is late in coming but should be beneficial for all residents of the U.K.
Course of Basic Treatment
In the NHS, a primary health care provider must often provide a referral to a mental health professional. Primary health care providers know their patients well, and they are able to provide personalized care.
When a patient is referred to mental health services, frequently they must wait to be seen, though wait times are on the way down thanks to the national waiting time standard. A psychologist and psychiatrist will meet with the patient, coordinating talk therapy and medications. Different forms of therapy are also available, like cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT.
When patients experience severe mental health problems, frequently they need to be hospitalized to protect themselves. The NHS fully covers mental health care hospitalizations, but as with the local providers, there is a shortage of beds. The sickest patients need to be prioritized, with lower-risk patients kept in the community health care system.
Change in Acute Care
For acute care, patients were sometimes kept in police cells to protect them when they were having a mental health episode. This damaging practice is being phased out, and patients are being taken to psychiatric hospitals instead.
Solving Mental Health Care Problems
The NHS is a system in crisis. More funding and more providers are needed to fully meet the needs of the British population. Mental health wait times are on the way down, but at present, they represent the biggest hurdle for patients. While they are waiting for care, many patients’ conditions are further complicated and require more specialized care than they would have if they received treatment promptly.
Together with the British government, the NHS will continue to work on its problems and provide the ideal of free and fair health care to the entire population. Dr. Akmal Makhdum and other British health care professionals will help to usher in a new era of fairness and proper treatment for sufferers of mental disorders.