Mentally ill to get more help, NHS chief says: Cash promised to ease crisis in cities

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The Independent Online
EXTRA cash to deal with the crisis in mental illness services in London and other big cities is on the way, Alan Langlands, the chief executive of the National Health Service, indicated yesterday.

The money will come in the wake a string of scandals over the care of the severely mentally ill, and a warning last December from the Mental Health Act Commission that 'urgent action' was needed to tackle overcrowding, understaffing, suicides and a regime of 'minimal therapy' in inner-city mental illness units. The units were 'in crisis', the commission warned, with patients discharged too early to admit those who were even more disturbed.

Mr Langlands, speaking at the Institute of Health Services Management's annual conference in Bournemouth, said mental illness was 'very much top of the agenda', with a report following a detailed study in London about to go to ministers.

'There are lessons about targeting resources to those most in need, I am sure there are lessons about the need to beef up resources and particularly to cope better with acute admissions, and as always there are messages about handling people who travel or wander across the boundaries of various statutory agencies. All of that is in the pipeline.'

Although the study had looked at London, Mr Langlands said: 'I am sure that there's a read across, if not to the whole country, to most other big cities.'

He added later that it would be wrong to pre-empt the report's findings, but it was plain that there were important issues to tackle. These 'will require better targeted resources and probably in some cases more resources. We can achieve that in a whole number of different ways'.

One option would be to change the formula by which NHS cash is allocated to give mental illness greater weight. Other options included various specific grants or policy guidance telling health authorities to purchase more mental illness care. In a speech in which he emphasised the need to 'close the gap' between NHS policy and delivery on the ground, Mr Langlands said mental illness services were a good example of that.

'We have in place some very good, very clear policies . . . but we haven't been very good at implementing them.'