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British Psychological Society Responds to National Audit Office Report

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The British Psychological Society welcomed the invitation from the National Audit Office to contribute to the ‘Progress in improving mental health services in England’ report and is pleased to see the report reflect the input of its members.

The National Audit Office (NAO) is a public body in the UK responsible for auditing central government departments, agencies, and non-departmental public bodies. The role of the NAO is to promote accountability and improvement in the management of public resources by providing independent and objective assessments of the economy, efficiency, and effectiveness of government spending.

Mental health is a critical issue, and it is essential that government agencies and organisations work together to improve access to quality care for those who need it. The report’s focus on this issue and the NAO’s involvement reflects the importance of mental health and the need for ongoing improvement in this area.

In response to the findings of the report, Sarb Bajwa, chief executive of the British Psychological Society, said: “This report paints a clear picture of a service that is largely continuing to fail to meet the needs of the increasing number of people needing mental health support, particularly those with complex mental health needs.

“It’s unacceptable that children’s and young people’s mental health, and that of other vulnerable groups, is falling by the wayside. Investment in prevention and early intervention services in local communities is fundamental to making sure people get the help they need when they need it before they reach crisis point.

“We’ve been calling for funding for more psychologists in the NHS for some time, to meet the needs of the rising number of patients presenting with more complex mental health conditions. This report is clear that staff shortages are the biggest barrier to improving services and highlights the need for greater numbers of psychologists. We urge the government to invest in a workforce that is fit for purpose. We need a mental health workforce strategy that will provide services with the appropriate level of resources and expertise, support retention, and enable staff to provide the level of service patients deserve.

“It is key that the NHS workforce receives the mental health and wellbeing support it needs, and we strongly advise the government to provide continued ring-fenced funding for NHS Staff Mental Health and Wellbeing Hubs.”

Gemma Byrne, head of health policy and campaigns at Mind, said that many people are recounting negative encounters with services, particularly those from minority groups such as young people, racialised communities, the LGBT+ community, and individuals with more intricate needs.

Mental health services must be accessible to all so that no one is excluded. This demands the delivery of care that is culturally sensitive.

The NAO report highlights the importance of continued efforts to improve mental health services in the United Kingdom. Despite increased funding and staffing for mental health services, the report emphasises that both the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and the National Health Service England (NHSE) must continue to monitor and mitigate the risks associated with expanding these services.

Additionally, the report calls for greater efforts to achieve parity between mental and physical health services, ensuring that patients receive equal access to high-quality care regardless of the nature of their health condition.

This requires a clear understanding of the ongoing challenges and a commitment to making the necessary investments to support ongoing improvements in mental health services.

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