4 January 2012

User Experience of NHS Adult Mental Health Services Should be Improved

Adult mental health services in the NHS should be improved to provide person-centredcare that tackles the stigma associated with mental illness, says NICE.

People with mental health issues should have access to mental health services when they need them, and should be actively involved in shared decision-making and supported in self-management.

This latest NICE guidance, together with a quality standard, comes on the back of government calls to improve patient experience of using mental health services in the NHS.

The Department of Health published the latest NHS Outcomes Framework which reiterated this call.

Developed together, the guidance and quality standard aim to ensure users of mental health services have the best possible experience of care from the NHS.

The standard says that in high-quality mental health services, service users and their families and carers, feel they are treated with empathy, dignity and respect.

In addition, they should feel optimistic that care will be effective, that it will be timely, and that they are confident their views are used to monitor and improve the performance of services.

The quality standard highlights use of a care plan that is jointly developed by mental health and social care professionals, and that people in hospital for mental health care can access meaningful and culturally appropriate activities. These activities should be available 7 days a week and not restricted to 9am to 5pm.

Recommendations in the guidance underpin the measures given in the quality standard.

The guidance recommends that healthcare professionals should routinely undertake shared decision-making with service users in hospital, including those who are subject to the Mental Health Act, whenever possible.

It suggests that health and social care providers should consider employing service users to be involved with providing 'person-centred care' training to health and social care professionals and supporting staff.

This training should be tailored to the needs of people who attend mental health services and should be evaluated using experience of care as an outcome.

The guidance also recommends that healthcare professionals work in partnership with people using mental health services and their families and carers.

Time should be taken to build trusting, supportive, empathetic and non-judgemental relationships as an essential part of care.

The guidance further recognises that stigma and discrimination are often attached to people using mental health services, and suggests that healthcare professionals working with service users should take this into account.

It recommends that a strategy should be developed to combat the stigma associated with mental health problems and using mental health services in the community and the NHS.

This should be carried out by health and social care providers' boards and that they should work with local authorities and local organisations with an interest in mental health, such as social services and voluntary organisations.

Dr Fergus Macbeth, Director of the Centre for Clinical Practice at NICE, said: "The aim of this quality standard and guidance is to improve the experience for people using adult mental health services in the NHS.

"This area is still, sadly, associated with stigma and embarrassment, despite 1 in 4 people in the UK suffering with a mental health problem at some stage in their lives.

"I am sure this guidance and accompanying standard will be helpful aids to all those working in this field".

A range of support tools are published alongside this guidance to help put it into practice. This includes a slide set, an audit tool and a guide to assist commissioners.