Recognising mental wellbeing needs: our response to the Government’s mental health and wellbeing call for evidence
Mental health and wellbeing affect us all, but don’t affect us all equally. People with neurological conditions are more likely to need mental health support than those without.
While this is also true of people with other long-term health conditions, there is a unique, complex and often poorly understood interplay between the physical and the psychological, cognitive and emotional impacts of many neurological conditions.
Despite this, too many people with neurological conditions are unable to access the services and support necessary to meet their mental wellbeing needs.
We’ve been highlighting the mental health and wellbeing challenges facing our community for years: whether that’s using the best available research data to inform our 2017 Parity of Esteem report, working with members through our Mental Health Subgroup to produce a Consensus Statement in 2021 or highlighting the experiences of over 8,500 people through the findings of My Neuro Survey and the #BackThe1in6 campaign. Read the full policy reports here.
At the start of July, we responded to the Government’s call for evidence to develop a 10-year plan to improve mental health for everyone across the UK.
Thank you to all member organisations who contributed to our response or shared their responses with us. Thank you also to the many people affected by neurological conditions who responded directly.
Our response is calling for:
Recognition of the mental health needs of people affected by neurological conditions
In our response, we have highlighted the fact that mental health conditions are more common in people with neurological conditions, and illustrated the complex relationship between the physical and mental health impacts of neurological conditions.
Increased expertise and distribution of workforce
We have highlighted significant gaps in the mental health and wellbeing workforce, including specialist neurological mental health professionals. For example, there are currently just 64 consultant neuropsychiatrists in the UK. People can wait up to two years for inpatient support. It is also estimated that just 3.61 psychologists per every 100,000 people in the UK undertake working sessions in neuropsychology.
Action to address workforce shortages
We are also calling for action to address workforce shortages across neuroscience more broadly, including all parts of multi-disciplinary teams. It is not just workforce shortages that need addressing but also the location and spread of specialists throughout the UK.
Increased awareness of neurological conditions beyond neuroscience
There is also a need to improve awareness of, and expertise in, neurological conditions among social care workers, GPs and other non-neurological professionals involved in the care of people with neurological conditions.
Removal of commissioning barriers to mental health services for people affected by neurological conditions
Many people with neurological conditions such as Huntington’s and Parkinson’s are unable to access mental health services despite clear need. Some community mental health services refuse to accept people with neurological conditions even when they have severe and prominent symptoms of mental ill-health, leaving them unable to access much-needed care. This is a wholly unacceptable barrier to accessing mental health support. It must be addressed urgently.
Improved provision of integrated care and services
Now Integrated Care Systems (ICSs) are in place and on a statutory footing throughout England, there is an important role for these structures to play in planning and commissioning services, including mental health and wellbeing services for people with neurological conditions.
Our response is also calling for these services to be prioritised within integrated care system footprints, and support for patient and public voice involvement. This includes the appointment of patient representatives with neurological conditions and clinical leaders to drive integration and improve services.
Making the case for change
Our recent reports highlight the significant impact neurological conditions can have on mental wellbeing. As part of our 2021/22 My Neuro Survey, 89% of children and young people and 82% of adult respondents in England reported that their neurological condition(s) made their mental wellbeing worse.
Despite this, 52% of children and young people and 62% of adults reported not being asked about their mental wellbeing by a health or social care professional in the last three years. Being asked is a vital first step towards getting the support needed to meet a person’s needs.
We’ll keep making the case for much needed improvements in mental health and wellbeing support for our community. Together, we’re stronger.
You can read our consultation response in full here.