Pausing for thought on the Health and Social Care Bill
Posted Wednesday 6 April 2011
It’s probably fair to say that the Government’s plans to reform the NHS have hit a wall in recent days. Concerned at the level of opposition to the proposals, Cameron’s had a bit of a wobble and put the brakes on. In effect, this means that the passage of the Health and Social Care Bill through Parliament will come to a halt for a few months while the Government attempts to address people’s concerns.
A panel of experts has been set up to consider what changes need to be made, and Cameron and Clegg are touring the country meeting health professionals to explain the reforms and to listen to people’s worries. It’s just a shame they don’t seem to be as willing to hear what patients have to say.
All of this presents Andrew Lansley, the Secretary of State for Health, with a challenge. He is very closely associated with these reforms, and the concerns that they have generated in number 10 have left him increasingly isolated. The challenge for him is to keep the momentum behind the reforms going while simultaneously addressing the opposition that the proposals have generated.
So what does all this mean for mental health? There’s been a lot of talk in the press about the changes we need to see to make these reforms work. There’s a real focus on how the potential privatisation of the NHS can be avoided; how private firms can be prevented from cherry-picking the best services to provide; and how to ensure that people other than GPs can be involved in the commissioning process – such as nurses, consultants and patients.
However, these issues don’t really address Mind’s concerns about the reforms. Over the past few weeks, we’ve been working with Parliamentarians to ensure that our worries are heard. We’re focused on ensuring that the reforms don’t interrupt the services that people with mental health problems currently access: ultimately, we want to see these services improved.
Our main areas of concern are:
- Many GPs admit to having poor understanding of mental health services. If GPs are to commission these services, they will have to be provided with support from the centre.
- The danger that public involvement in influencing the commissioning process could be limited to those that can shout the loudest. It is imperative that the views and concerns of marginalised and disadvantaged groups, such as many mental health service users, are actively sought and listened to.
- The potential fragmentation of care pathways. People with mental health problems often have to access a range of services. If any willing provider will be able to provide each one of these individual services, then mental health service users could find themselves on care pathways that are fragmented and poorly-joined up. This could have a negative impact on an individual’s road to recovery.
The pause in the Bill’s progress through Parliament gives us an opportunity to make sure that these concerns are addressed. While Cameron and Clegg are clearly very keen to listen to the concerns of professionals, they must show the same willingness to listen to the concerns of the public. We’ll be working to make sure that they do.
It’d be great to hear about your top three concerns around the impact that the Government’s reforms will have on the services you use. Please let us know either by commenting on this blog post or emailing our Campaigns team.
Colin Walker, Mind Policy and Campaigns Manager (Mental Health Services)
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