London Psychiatric Treatment: How Important is Your Address?

The phrase “postcode lottery” is often bandied about, particularly in terms of the provision of health services within the UK. Those patients seeking access to NHS mental health services are the latest participants in this grim lottery, according to work carried out by the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

They have crunched the numbers; the data itself mined from NHS Digital, and have come to the worrying conclusion that there is significant difference in the availability of access to acute mental health services and professionals right across the UK.

For example, in the North, Central and East London region, the Royal College found that there were 13 consultant psychiatrists for every 100,000 of the population.

However, in the East of England and the Yorkshire and Humber regions, that number drops to just 5 consultant psychiatrists per 100,000 – less than half the available staff in London. Wales, at 6 and Scotland at 10 are marginally better but still worse off.

These figures also highlight the disparity in mental health services available to those who do and those who do not have the resources to pay. There will of course always exist those patients with the ability to pay privately for a top private psychiatrist in London.

But that will be scant consolation to the thousands of people around the country caught on ever lengthening NHS waiting lists. For these people, who frankly are most of us, there could however be light at the end of the tunnel – albeit it looks somewhat far off at present.

The Department of Health and the NHS itself are finally beginning to realize the scale of the problem within the public provision of mental health services in the UK. Further, and even more important, they are now beginning to take steps to address the issues.

In a recent press release by the Department of Health, it was triumphantly announced that the NHS was shortly to embark upon an aggressive recruitment policy, aimed at bringing in the personnel required to bring NHS mental health provision up to the standard the general public would expect.

“We have started one of the biggest expansions of mental health services in Europe,” a NHS spokeswoman claimed, going on to add that the ultimate ambition of the expansion was, “to create 21,000 new posts by [the year] 2021.”

Perhaps with an eye to impending Brexit, the spokeswoman also outlined how whilst part of the expansion program was of course aimed at recruiting new staff, it was equally important to support, “those already in the profession to stay.” Perhaps some thought is also to be given to bringing back private psychiatrists into the NHS service stream, or perhaps even expanding the access of NHS patients to private practices. Maybe after all, some more of us will end up seeing that top private psychiatrist in London.

Either way, whilst the current provision of NHS mental services may not be in the best of condition, it is both comforting and encouraging to see that these deficiencies are both recognized by those at the very top of the NHS – and that appropriate measures are beginning to take shape to tackle it.

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Ariana Ostrow
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