The Care Quality Commission's (CQC) annual assessment of the state of health and social care in England shows that the quality of care people received has stayed the same overall, but people's experiences are determined by whether they can access good care when they need it.
When people can't access the care they need, the risk is that they end up at the wrong service. For example, when people in crisis visit A&E because they can't access community based mental health and learning disability services.
Difficulties in accessing the right care can mean that people with a learning disability or autism end up detained in unsuitable hospitals. This is an issue that CQC has been looking into since 2018, highlighting the use of segregation for people with severe and complex problems who should be receiving specialist care from skilled staff.
This year's State of Care report considers the pressures faced by health and social care as a whole, but focuses particularly on inpatient mental health and learning disability services, the area where CQC is seeing a negative impact on quality.
Responding to the report, Imelda Redmond, National Director of Healthwatch England said:
“Concerns over access to and the quality of mental health and learning disability services is one of the key things people continue to raise with Healthwatch, with the feedback provided overwhelmingly negative when compared to other parts of the NHS and social care.
“Unfortunately, the CQC’s findings come as no surprise to us and confirm that this is a nation-wide problem. We agree that urgent action is required, particularly on staffing levels, to ensure that people can get the help they need.
“We are pleased to see organisations such as CQC, recognising the value of listening to people’s experience of care. By using the ‘Share Your Experience’ comments alongside inspection reports and case studies, CQC has been able to gain a much clearer picture of what is happening in services and importantly what needs to be improved.”
Ian Trenholm, Chief Executive of Care Quality Commission said:
“In this year’s State of Care, we have highlighted mental health and learning disability inpatient services because that’s where we are starting to see an impact on quality – and on people. There has been a deterioration in ratings in these services – and our inspection reports highlight staff shortages, or care delivered by staff who aren’t trained or supported to look after people with complex needs, as a reason for this. "