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Failings in Mental Health Care

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    Suicide & self-harm rates are reported to have increased by 56% due to the deterioration of mental health services in England. Can anything be done to help the most vulnerable?

    By Lucy Crawford

Figures obtained by a Labour Freedom of Information request earlier this week indicate an increase of serious incidents involving patients in mental health settings from 14,815 in 2010 to 23,053 in 2013.  This is blamed on staff shortages, insufficient bed space and cutbacks at early intervention levels.

The resulting effect being thousands of people with serious mental health concerns are being overlooked and let down when they are at their most vulnerable. With such difficulties, what can be done?

What do we mean by ‘Mental Health’?

This can mean anything from anger to depression to schizophrenia. It affects how we feel about ourselves, how we see relationships and how we cope in daily life.   Professional services are available to those who need additional support and they often carry out an assessment of an individual’s s needs.  No two treatment plans are the same.

This vitally important service is facing significant difficulties and, in many cases, it seems patients are not receiving the appropriate standard of care that they should be.

What is being done?

“A Manifesto for Better Mental Health” has been written by Rethink Mental Illness, Centre for Mental Health, Mental Health Foundation, Mental Health Network, Mind and the Royal College of Psychiatrists. This sets out 5 key areas that need to be improved to stop the ‘car crash’ within mental health services.  These are:

1.    Fair access and funding for frontline services
2.    Ensure children are supported from an early age to prevent situations deteriorating
3.    Improve the physical health of those with mental health disorders to promote a health lifestyle and improve quality of life
4.    Give more support to those recovering to help them back into work and reduce the stigma attached to mental health
5.    Enable better access, including maximum waiting times & a psychiatric liaison based in hospitals

All three political parties are committed to improving the quality of services providing by mental health teams.

What can we do?

It is vitally important that support is given to those who suffer with mental illness and I fully support the manifesto for better mental health.  As a solicitor specialising in medical negligence claims I, and my colleagues, have acted for patients who have suffered injury to themselves, or a member of their family, as a result of failings in mental health care, and have seen the often devastating effects.

Most people think of medical negligence as being claims against GP’s or their Hospital relating to physical injuries suffered.  It however extends beyond this and ensures that all health care professionals provide an appropriate standard of care to their patients, including those within mental health services.

Claims can arise out of a failure to recognise symptoms; misdiagnosis; inappropriate medication; inadequate monitoring as an in patient; or not adequately reviewing a patient before discharging them. Any of the above can result in life changing injuries or even death.

If you have any concern about either your own treatment, or that of a family member, please give us a call to discuss further.

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