A critical picture of mental health provision is emerging across Yorkshire as campaigners warn of unacceptable waiting lists, a postcode lottery for care, and a crisis service not robust enough to cope with growing demand.
Today, the Yorkshire Evening Post has examined in detail the landscape of provision across the region, from children and young people to emergency beds and acute care.
As waiting lists of up to a year for some services are revealed, campaigners call for early intervention to prevent what they say has become the “Cinderella story” of our generation.
“We are not thriving,” said David Smith, chief executive of Hull and East Yorkshire Mind. “We are, at best, surviving.
“While the majority of people get the help and support they need, that doesn’t excuse the percentage of those who are facing unacceptable waiting lists and inadequate care, and whose lives are being left at risk because they can’t get the treatment they need. It’s really worrying to see the terrible disparities in healthcare provision across different areas.
“There’s very clearly a postcode lottery and we need to be working towards a consistent healthcare service which offers people the same levels of excellent care across the region.
“We need to get services into place which people can access without barriers.
“I’ve never known a time when mental health was so important, in both the political and health sphere, but to the public as well.”
Last year this newspaper launched its #speakyourmind campaign to help combat the stigma of mental health and start conversations across the city.
The latest analysis by the YEP has previously found that over three years more than 3,000 people including children were locked up in police cells in the region under the Mental Health Act.
Today’s investigation shows that since October, more than 400 vulnerable patients have been sent up to 180 miles from home for care as the county faces a critical bed shortage, at a cost of £1.7m.
There are more than 150 people waiting for life-saving psychosis intervention in Yorkshire, with many having waited more than three months already for emergency care.
And as concerns are raised over waiting lists for therapy reaching up to a year in some areas, campaigners call for action to challenge perceptions, increase funding, and bring in greater literacy and education for young people who are the most at risk.
“Mental health problems affect everybody,” said Jenny Edwards CBE, chief executive of the Mental Health Foundation. “It affects two thirds of people - if it’s not ourselves it’s someone you know, a child, a partner, a parent or a neighbour. It’s not a minority - it’s something we all see.
“It costs the economy £105bn a year, and it’s behind a third of all visits to the GP. We’ve got to pay attention.
“Mental health has become the Cinderella story, yet if you do end up with the struggle of a long term medical condition, it’s you mental health that will get you through.”
NHS England says it has committed to its biggest transformation of mental health care in a generation, pledging to invest more than a billion pounds a year by 2020/21, and help more than a million extra people.
Claire Murdoch, national director for mental health at NHS England, said: “We are committed to ending the need for children and young people travelling long distances for the right care. Around 120,000 more people are now getting the mental health care they need than three years ago.
“Over the last year we have made some huge strides forward to ensure mental and physical health are on an equal footing, but there is much more work to do and we won’t rest on our laurels and we will continue to drive further improvements to ensure the right care is available across the country at the right time.”